The Maneater

Life Sciences Week brings together posters, speakers, scientists across MU’s campus

Life Sciences Week took place from April 9-14 and was sponsored by the MU School of Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources.

Speakers, vendors and student researchers convened from April 9-14 to bring “together research across scientific disciplines at Mizzou” during the 34th annual Life Sciences Week, according to the event’s website.

This year, Life Sciences Week was centered around bioinformatics, or collecting and analyzing large amounts of biological data. Life Sciences Week was sponsored by the MU School of Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources.

Roger Meissen, senior editor for the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center, worked on the promotions and communications for Life Sciences Week. Meissen said MU and Bond Life Sciences Center are grateful to hold the events and it would not be possible without the support of other programs on campus.

“We're lucky that we can host it here,” Meissen said. “We're lucky that we have the space, but we're also very grateful for all the other colleges that feel like it's worthwhile and feel like it benefits their students enough for them to give us some financial support.”

On Monday and Tuesday, students, faculty and researchers presented research posters in the Bond Life Sciences Center. Posters were judged by volunteer postdoctoral faculty in the fields of science. Authors of the posters chose which category they wanted their work judged in, but undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff were judged in the same categories, which is different from previous years. Researchers entered 320 posters, 231 of which were judged for the poster session competition.

Categories for the posters were molecular and cellular biology; ecological, evolutionary and developmental biology; plant and animal physiology and health; life science innovations; social and behavioral sciences; and bioinformatics. In addition, posters could be voted to win Expert’s Choice Award or People’s Choice Award. Posters were judged based on the research’s introduction, techniques, results and the poster’s appearance.

Junior Brittney Marshall presented her and her colleagues’ work on the gut microbiomes of mice. She and seven other undergraduate researchers collaborated with teams from the MU Metabolomics Center and the Informatics Institute. They tested the behaviors of mice based on the inclusion or exclusion of plant-derived estrogens in their diets and then created a poster for Life Sciences Week. Marshall’s poster received first place in the social and behavioral sciences category of the competition.

Marshall said the poster presentation made her more comfortable with presenting her research and may help her as she continues her medical career. She also said Life Sciences Week can have a positive impact on student researchers.

“I think something that’s really important in science, especially medicine, is to be able to explain things to others [and] explain them not just to people who know science really well, but to everyone,” Marshall said. “I think [Life Sciences Week] is a good way to get [students] out of their comfort zones and get them used to talking to people, getting used to explaining what they do on multiple different levels.”

Julia Rodriguez, lead grant writer for the Bond Life Sciences Center, said she assisted Life Sciences Week by making sure the judges were organized and the poster presentations went smoothly. Rodriguez said the posters and the way they were organized in Bond Life Sciences Center were a way for all levels of scientists to connect with one another.

“It’s an opportunity for the scientists to network because you’re crossing so many disciplines,” Rodriguez said. “We purposely chose to intermingle them so there would be a greater amount of collaborations. Sometimes that science can spark an idea or a thought [they] haven’t had before.”

Tuesday also brought the MU Informatics Institute 10th Anniversary Symposium to Life Sciences Week. The symposium is a “venue for students, researchers, academics, faculty and professionals to interact, share research, and collaborate, focusing on the latest trends in informatics,” according to its website. The event held faculty research spotlight events and student presentations on various information science topics.

Wednesday held the Third Annual Midwest Bioinformatics Conference, sponsored by the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute. This event included poster presentations for topics relevant to bioinformatics, along with panel discussions with experts about structuring, standardizing and visualizing data, among other topics.

Presenters for Life Sciences Week included Richard M. Caprioli, Stanford Moore professor of biochemistry and director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who spoke on Monday about mass spectrometry and and molecular microscopy. Joseph Ecker, professor of plant molecular and cellular biology and a chair in genetics at Salk International in La Jolla, California, spoke on Thursday about the study of plant and human development and disease.

Events were also held off campus, such as the Science Café at Broadway Brewery. Entitled “Murder on Monday,” Robert Hall, professor emeritus of entomology, hosted the Science Café.

The week concluded with Saturday Morning Science with speaker Ruthie Angelovici. Angelovici holds research interests in plant biology, metabolism and seed biology. Her address centered around the question, “Can quantitative genetics of seed amino acids help feed the world?”

Meissen said Life Sciences Week impacts MU by emphasizing the research created at the institution and influencing scientists to work together.

“We see this as one of the premier focal points for science research across the university,” Meissen said. “It brings in a wider assortment and sampling of the science around MU than any other event on campus throughout the year. We really feel that that sort of cross-discipline collaboration and interaction is one of the more valuable things that can happen to spur creativity and new collaborations in research.”

Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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