Archives for October 2017

Scotty McKay: The Life of a Protein

I worked in Dr. Marian’s lab for three semesters. During this time, I learned to culture cells, determine the protein concentration of a solution, perform immunoprecipitations, perform immunofluorescent microscopy, SDS PAGE, as well as western blotting. I was also able to present my work at three different conferences and wrote my honor’s thesis titled “Cadherin 18 Localization and Interacting Partners” over this project. I got into this research because I wanted to explore whether research was something that I would want to pursue after graduation, but also because I saw potential for this work to have a real, positive impact on people’s lives.

The goal of this project was to learn more about a protein that is found naturally in human cells called cadherin 18. This is a type 2 cadherin that very little is known about, which to me is one of the most fascinating things about this project. Knowing throughout your research that something you notice could be the first time that anyone has ever made that observation is an awesome feeling. For this project, we had two main goals. These goals were to find out where cadherin 18 is localized within cells as well as determine what proteins cadherin 18 interacts with. By knowing where it is located and what proteins it interacts with, we will have a much better idea of what it does in the cell. Gaining a greater understanding of cadherin 18 is important because by learning more about cadherin 18, we will have a better understanding of any bodily process or disease that cadherin 18 is found to be involved in.

In order to see where the cadherin 18 is located in cells, we used immunofluorescence. Immunofluorescence makes use of antibodies as well as fluorophores (light emitting organic molecule) to locate a particular antigen. In our case, we bound a primary antibody that specifically binds cadherin 18 to cadherin 18. We then bound a secondary antibody to the primary antibody. This secondary antibody had an attached fluorophore that emitted light when it was exposed to a certain wavelength of light. Using this method, we were able to take pictures of our cells that highlighted where cadherin 18 is located.

We then used immunoprecipitation to determine what proteins cadherin 18 interacts with. Immunoprecipitation uses the same antibodies as immunofluorescence that are specified to cadherin 18. In this case though, the antibodies are bound to agarose beads. After the cell’s proteins are extracted, all the cellular proteins are allowed to interact with the antibodies. Only the cadherin 18 should bind to the antibody, and any protein that interacts with cadherin 18 should bind to cadherin 18. After performing washes and centrifugations, we should be left just with the beads, antibodies, cadherin 18, and possible interacting partners of cadherin 18. An elution buffer was then used to remove the proteins from the antibodies, and the proteins were subjected to an SDS PAGE to help determine what the interacting proteins are. During SDS PAGE, the eluted proteins are mixed with a dye and then pipetted into the wells of a precast gel. This gel is then put into a tank of SDS buffer which denatures the proteins and gives them a negative charge. When this gel is subjected to electrophoresis, the proteins are pulled toward the positive electrode. The gel that the proteins move through is very porous which allows small proteins to move more quickly through it. The end result is a gel with multiple bands of proteins separated based off molecular weight.

The end result of my work on this project is that we believe, based on our fluorescent images, that cadherin 18 is located throughout the cytoplasm of cells. We also were able to see multiple distinguishable bands on our SDS PAGE which we believe are possible interacting partners of cadherin 18. This project will be taken over by another student next semester who will help verify and expand upon these results. I am very happy that I was given the opportunity to assist with this project and am extremely pleased with the results we were able to get in such a short amount of time. I highly recommend that other students get involved in some research project of their own. This was an experience that not only taught me useful skills, but also an experience that greatly developed my critical thinking, problem solving, and presentation skills which will be invaluable in the future.

 

Taylor Avery: Study Abroad in The Netherlands

It seemed like an outrageous idea to leave everything behind for half a year. It wasn’t until I was offered a real opportunity that I started to consider how much of an impact studying abroad could have on me. I was told that the Netherlands had a business program, so I decided to follow through with applying to the school and just seeing what happened from there. Then, I received an acceptance letter and the next thing I knew I was informing people I would be gone for five months, I bought a plane ticket, and I said goodbye to familiarity.

 A memory that stands out about the plane ride to Amsterdam was the fear that brought tears to my eyes and made my hands shake. Luckily, I was traveling with another UCA student who was going to be at the same university in The Hague. We started talking to a wonderful Dutch man who was traveling back to the Netherlands after doing business in the United States. He gave us advice and assured us that we would be just fine. I remember falling asleep and praying that he was right and hoping for some comfort in his words.

 Upon arriving to Amsterdam, we frantically tried to figure out the train system to get to our apartments in The Hague, where our university was located. After buying the wrong type of ticket, getting off at the wrong station (with multiple suitcases per person), and then finally arriving to our apartments I was feeling a type of exhaustion that I had never experienced before. On the train, we had been surrounded by Dutch conversations going on around us. People of all walks of life were speaking this language and I felt like the biggest outsider. Growing up in a small town, I was familiar with so many people and could strike up a conversation with just about any person that I came across. For once in my life, I was genuinely self-conscious to even say hi to other people.

 We went to the orientation the following day, and immediately gravitated towards Americans who were in the program from other universities. If you’re wondering how we could tell they were American, just know that they are always the loudest person in any room. My friends in Europe used to make fun of me all the time for talking so loud. I was so happy to gain some familiarity, even if it was from total strangers. We made plans to visit Amsterdam together that weekend, and ended up traveling to Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany with them later in the semester.

These friends ended up being my go-to people when I needed a taste of America. We traveled together, ate together, challenged each other, saw the most beautiful sights of our lifetime and bonded through our heartaches for simplicities like Wal-Mart and junk food like Taco Bell. These friendships were the first challenge to my personal growth as I allowed myself to open up to people who I barely knew. I gave a part of myself to these friendships knowing I was receiving the same from them. I went from being a closed-off person to being able to express my feelings freely and be daring, adventurous, and confident. I can never thank them enough for helping me grow into this person that I am now.

 Going back to the orientation day, I soon discovered that I was in a separate program than all my American buddies. So, I lost my familiar again. It was hard making friends at school at first. Most of the other exchange students were from European countries and they immediately bonded through conversations about their credits and internships. I couldn’t really find a common ground to relate until a week or so later when I was asked by one of my professors about Donald Trump and I made a bit of a joke and my first non-American friend laughed and invited me to go eat together after class. She was Danish and outgoing and reminded me of myself in Conway. She introduced me to the group of friends that I spent most of my time with. Two Danish girls, two German girls, an Aruban girl, and myself.

These girls shared their cultures with me and allowed me to ask all of the stupid questions my heart desired. I was so eager to learn about their lives and they felt the same about me. They were hilarious and exciting and had no filters. I learned to be okay with myself and be happy to be who I was. They gave me a confidence I was so incredibly proud of at the end of my journey. I traveled with them several times and we have already made plans for them to visit me in America.

 I discovered that my comfort is found in people and relationships. No matter what country I was traveling to and no matter how scary that was, the people I experienced it with helped me find comfort and familiarity. What I love about the relationships that I made in my time in Europe is that it made me comfortable with myself. I ended up becoming a professional at public transportation in all forms. Trains, trams, planes, you name it and I could figure it out now. I became comfortable enough that I traveled alone to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Five months flew by, and I would give anything to experience it twice. I would encourage every person who can to take the leap of faith and study abroad, especially if you can do it for a semester. You can potentially experience a personal growth that only giving up the “familiar” can give you.

 

Jasmin Cotoco: 50 Must Do’s When in Greater China, Philippines, and South Korea

This summer, thanks to generous funding from the Honors College, I embarked on my dream study abroad trip. I, with one of my best friends, Lindsey Hazeslip, spent six days in Hong Kong, a day in Macau, thirty-five days in Shanghai, four days in Beijing, twenty-four days in the Philippines, and seven days in South Korea. As much as I would love to, in no way could I ever wholly and justifiably share all of the crazy and phenomenal memories I made with friends and family in just one blog post. Instead, I decided to list all the Must Do’s of the places I visited based on my experiences, just in case you ever chance your way upon these destinations in your next trip.

Hong Kong

  1. Get a bird’s-eye view of Hong Kong at Victoria’s Peak. (Pro-tip: Save the sweat and ride The Peak Tram all the way up.)
  2. Stroll around Central District to admire all the architectural buildings.
  3. Walk around Ngong Ping Village.
  4. Greet the Tian Tan Buddha, the world’s biggest seated, outdoor Buddha.
  5. Visit the Po Lin Monastery. Take a peek at the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
  6. Explore Tsim Tsa Tsui. (Pro-tip: Book your hotel here. If you pick the right one and get lucky, you could have the perfect view of Hong Kong’s city scape from across Victoria Harbour. It is literally “lit” at night.)
  7. Visit Disneyland.
  8. Shop ‘til you drop in Mongkok. Visit street markets like The Ladies Market and Sneaker Street.
  9. Must Eats: Dimsum, Ice Cream-filled Eggette waffle. Also, Hong Kong Milk Tea is to die for!!

Macau

  1. Visit Senado Square to get a feel of the city’s Portuguese influence.
  2. Visit the Ruins of St.Paul.
  3. Ogle at the luxurious casinos, such as the Grand Lisboa, The Venetian, The Parisian, and Studio City.
  4. Must Eats: Egg tarts, Portuguese food, and jerky. (Pro-tip: Take all the free jerky samples.)

Shanghai

  1. Learn Chinese at East China Normal University. ECNU places you in a lively classroom full of other international students. You’ll take reading classes, a listening class, and a speaking class and will learn how to read and write hundreds of words in a short time. You’ll lose sleep and your sanity, but you’ll reap the benefits of this immersion when you gain so much Mandarin fluency.
  2. Stroll through the Bund to get a waterside view of Shanghai’s signature skyline.
  3. Visit Nanjing Road, a shopaholic’s heaven.
  4. Visit Shanghai Disneyland, the newest and largest Disneyland.
  5. Visit the Shanghai Museum and learn about ancient Chinese painting, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, and more.
  6. Visit Jingan Temple in the middle of bustling downtown Shanghai.
  7. Visit Longhua Temple, the biggest and most authentic temple in Shanghai.
  8. Wander around Tianzifang, Shanghai’s artsy, hipstery district.
  9. Sing your heart out at a karaoke bar.
  10. Must Eats: Hotpot, Dumplings, and Chinese KFC

Beijing

  1. Explore the Forbidden City and its 90+ palace compounds. Soak in the ancient Chinese cultural history while walking through the many museum collections.
  2. Hike the Great Wall. (Pro-tip: Avoid going after torrential rainfall. Entry to the wall closes because of possible “geological disasters.”)
  3. Stroll through the Summer Palace with its beautiful lakes, gardens, palaces, and temples.
  4. Must Eat: Peking Roast Duck

Philippines

  1. Experience Philippine shopping culture and go mall hopping. (Pro-tip: Best malls are Megamall, SM Aura, BGC, and Greenhills)
  2. Go food tripping. Food is very cheap, and you can find restaurants of ANY cuisine.
  3. Explore Intramuros to learn about Filipino history.
  4. Go swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Panglao Beach.
  5. ATV through the Chocolate Hills.
  6. Say hi to the tarsiers.
  7. Go ziplining through the rainforests.
  8. Enjoy lunch on a jungle river cruise.
  9. FILIPINO Must Eats: ….I personally approve of EVERYTHING.

Seoul

  1. Wander through Myeongdong, and stock up on all the renowned Korean fashion, makeup, and skincare.
  2. Get lost in COEX mall, Asia’s largest underground shopping mall.
  3. Have a taste of Korea’s youth culture in Hongdae. Sit and enjoy the many talent-filled street musicians and dancers.
  4. Cuddle dogs and enjoy a drink at a dog cafe.
  5. Stroll through Garosugil, a more quiet, high-end shopping district.
  6. Find specialty souvenirs in Insadong.
  7. Wear a hanbok and take pictures at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
  8. Look at traditional houses at Bukchon Hanok Village.
  9. Check out the futuristic architecture of the Dongdaeum Design Plaza and its 21,000 roses in the LED garden.
  10. Must Eats: Bibimbap, Jajangmyeon, Bingsoo, Korean-styled fried chicken, Korean BBQ

Bonus for any K-pop fans reading:

  1. Visit an entertainment company building. You might spot your favorite artist.
  2. Visit SM COEX Atrium.
  3. Jam out at your favorite group/band’s concert.

For anywhere you go:

  1. Remember Walker Percy’s “Loss of the Creature”? Remind yourself to lose the “symbolic complex” that may form before visiting a place. You have sovereignty over your experience, so take this list as a mere suggestion, and venture outside of it to create your own unique memories!

Honors Students, Faculty Attend First Woman Summit Conference By Mary Kathryn Whitaker

Students and faculty from the UCA Honors College attended the First Annual World Woman Summit, hosted by the World Woman Foundation, on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Little Rock. The World Woman Foundation, led by CEO Rupa Dash, hosted a variety of professional men and women to speak on the topic of “gender harmony.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was invited to make opening remarks at the conference. Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock Vice Mayor Kathy Webb, and Lynnette Watts were also invited to make opening remarks. All four spoke on economic and social developments for women, including the increasing percentage of women holding executive positions in companies. Hewlett-Packard, General Motors, Facebook and Pepsi all have women CEOs. “Intelligent, talent and strength are genderless words,” Watts said.

Anna María Chavez, former CEO of the Girl Scouts, was the first keynote speaker at the conference. The first woman of color to hold the highest position, Chavez joined the Girl Scouts of the USA for their advocacy for the protection and empowerment of girls.

“It is our collective responsibility as leaders to invest in girls and women and to model ethics, values and behaviors for young children,” Chavez said. “If we don’t change the dialogue, we will see a gap in leadership representing gender parity.”
Economic development was one of the main topics discussed at the conference. Of the world population, the panel shared, only 55 percent of women participate in the workforce, compared with 77% of men. Women have been found more likely to participate in informal economies, likely without social protections such as healthcare.

An increasing number of girls are displaying interest in technology and science fields. Seventy-six percent of high school girls expressed an interest in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM); however, pursuing an education in STEM was ranked lower than the desire to stay at home and raise children.

Arkansas is the first state in the United States to require high schools to offer computer science courses, a decision that may influence the percentage of girls studying these topics in years to come. The biggest factor in girls deciding not to study science or technology, Chavez said, was a trusted, male figure telling them otherwise.

These historical gender stereotypes have carried over into the workforce. When it comes to applying for positions, women have a different mindset than men, Ceylan Rowe said. More men apply for job positions where they have a marginal opportunity for being hired; whereas, women oftimes apply only if they know they are 100 percent qualified. One way to combat this discrepancy, Rowe said, is by encouraging the use of gender neutral descriptors for corporate positions. Women may be discouraged from apply to positions with masculine descriptors, because they see themselves as not being qualified for the position, or feel they may not be welcome in the organization.

Empowering women allows for a more efficient use of the human capital of a country, said Shruti Kapoor, founder of Sayfty, an organization dedicated to educating women and girls in India about gender violence. A 10 percent increase in the number of girls attending schools would increase the GDP of a country by three percent, Kapoor said. Hilary Haddigan, Chief of Mission Effectiveness at Heifer International, said 77 percent of their food providers are women. However, only 43 percent of farmers worldwide are women. If women were given equal participation in the worldwide economy, Haddigan said, there could be a $23 trillion increase to the global GDP.

“The best way to establish change is to educate,” said Samantha Marqaurd, a global health policy expert. Marqaurd has worked closely with the city of St. Louis to establish health care strategies, including a push for school-based health care. “You can’t learn if you don’t go to school, and you can’t go to school if you are always sick.”

The World Woman Foundation ultimately aims to educate and advocate for the gender equality. In order to reach equality, however, we must focus on equity, which recognizes that not all groups require the same efforts and materials to be considered equal. In developing countries, women may face pushback in the forms of barriers in land ownership, information and technology. Just recently, Saudi Arabia announced that, beginning in June 2018, women will gain the right to drive.

“We can compare the human race is a bird with two wings,” Kapoor said. “If one of those wings is broken, no one can fly.”

Lexi Bibbs – 500,000 Steps through Italy

 

It has been four days since I returned home from the trip of a lifetime, and my legs have no idea what to do. For the past month I have spent my days walking, hiking, swimming, and at times running through northern Italy. I have spent time in Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Bolzano, and a sprinkling of stunning Tuscan hill towns. While in Italy my little legs took 556,902 steps, walked 226.24 miles, and climbed 1,096 staircases…and I absolutely loved it.

On our first night in Florence everyone in the group climbed up to San Miniato al Monte, a smaller basilica located near the Piazza Michelangelo. After walking ten miles (literally) around Florence while fighting jet lag, the climb up was more than a little difficult. Many breaks were taken, lots of water was consumed, and there were more than a couple of whines. Every step up was worth it, however, when we sat atop the steps in front of the church and watched the sun set over the rolling Tuscan hills and bathe the city of Florence in its glow. I can only describe the experience as magical. It was the first time I thought to myself “if you do not make the climb, you do not get the view.”

This thought passed through my mind in various forms throughout the duration of the trip. “If you do not climb 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo, you do not get to see the view Brunelleschi had from atop what is perhaps his greatest achievement.” “If you do not take a thirty minute walk to find the restaurant that serves the best bistecca all fiorentina (according to Rick Steves of course!), you do not eat the best steak of your life.” “If you do not make the three hour hike from Corniglia to Monterosso, you do not see views so breathtaking they bring tears to your eyes.” Sure, you can see pictures from the top of the Duomo, take a cab to Antico Ristoro di Cambi, or take a 4 euro train ride between towns in Cinque Terre, but you will never get the full view.

My time in Italy taught me that “getting the view” is not simply about taking in scenery, it is about appreciating everything that got you to that place and everyone who has stood there before you. When you climb to the top of the Duomo and your stomach drops just a little as you peer over the metal railing to see the entire city of Florence, you appreciate the courage of Brunelleschi and the faith of his workers who risked their lives to see his vision come to life. Italy has taught me lessons I will carry with me throughout my life. Making the climb is only one of many I hold close to my heart.

My experience studying abroad would not have been possible without the generosity of the Honors College and its donors, support of family and friends, and the involvement of the wonderful professors who participated in the UCA in Florence program. My participation in this program has changed me as a person and has granted me a new world perspective. Because of the hard work, patience, and insight of Dr. Ken Sobel, Dr. Joe McGarrity, and Dr. Ann Bryan, I and the other students who came on this trip have a deeper understanding of the intricacies and the impact of the Italian Renaissance and a greater confidence in our ability not only to travel in but to thrive in a foreign country. If ever I meet another student looking for a reason to study abroad, I could give them a thousand. Grazie Italia, you will forever have a piece of my heart!