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FMU undergraduate students and professors participate in biology research

For most colleges and universities, undergraduate education generally involves understanding the past discoveries of scholars and scientists. But Francis Marion University began introducing research to undergraduate students some time ago and a few biology students and professors decided to take full advantage of the opportunity.

One such research led by biology professors Dr. Kirk Dineley and Dr. Latha Malaiyandi studies living cells with specialized microscopes. Both professors cite many reasons for introducing research to students during undergraduate studies.

Dineley said he has found that standard lecture presentation and pre-determined lab exercises do not do enough to train students to deal with unknowns. Because science is fundamentally a process of working with unknowns, students sometimes can be intimidated at the prospect of researching a question as opposed to being given information. The study of living cells under a microscope relieves some of the anxiety for students because students can establish a real-time dialogue with a living system, ask a given question and receive a prompt reply, said Dineley. 

“In this context, one might view live-cell microscopy as offering an intermediate step in helping the young researchers mature from a mentality that relies on certainty to one that is invigorated by the unknown,” Dineley said.

Malaiyandi, who has trained dozens of students to grow cells in artificial conditions, said the approach of introducing students to biomedical research early on could one day improve the quality of life for some people.

In this lab, students focus on how cells regulate intracellular metals, and how cells are affected when they fail to regulate metals properly. This is important for understanding the fundamental cause of the death of brain cells during stroke, Malaiyandi said.

“Students involved in these research projects gain valuable skills that complement and expand upon what they learn in the classroom,” Malaiyandi said. “I believe it is important for them to develop their own ideas, and also to begin to develop their own approach to science – which is actually a highly individualistic enterprise.”

Students like Robbie Burger, Lacy Danikis, Lindsey Harte and Callie Norris have all benefited from research efforts initiated by biology professors Jeff Camper, Travis Knowles and Tim Shannon. In fact, Harte is now a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences Program in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

The FMU Department of Biology through the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (P.U.R.E.), strongly encourages student participation in research activities. There are many opportunities for undergraduates to assist in faculty research or develop their own independent research projects. Students can earn academic credit through Special Studies and Honors Independent Study courses.

Biology faculty members are engaged in diverse research projects, such as:

· field studies and conservation biology of animals and plants
· the immune responses of crayfish
· genetics and biotechnology
· pollen germination
· animal reproductive biology
· microbial ecology

Each spring semester the department hosts a P.U.R.E. symposium on campus, where motivated student researchers can present their results. Participation in this symposium is optional. For more information about research in the field of biology, please contact Dr. Tamatha Barbeau or Dr. Gregory Pryor at and

#44 / 10-18-07
Last Published: October 19, 2007 2:03 PM
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