Biology News


Biology Faculty and Student News

Jon Hric, Senior Biology Major Studies in Thailand for a Semester! Welcome Back Jon!

“Sa was dee! (greetings or Hi! in the Thai language) I studied environmental sustainability in Thailand with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI). This is an experiential program that studies topics like food systems, political rights, communication between local people and the government, resource use, tourism, and overfishing. The actual learning is done little to none in the classroom. To really understand a culture, you must live with the people, eat the unbelievable food, and do some occasional rock climbing, elephant riding, and snorkeling. Through this program, I learned how to ask reflective questions about a culture I was living in, and critically analyze my own. This study abroad experience has challenged the way I perceive and seek meaningful engagement with other cultures.”

 Jon and Heather  Jon Hric boat  Jon Hric hiking


Matthew Ahrenholz, 2015, Studies Biology in London!

This Fall I had the wonderful opportunity to go to King's College in London to study biology. While there, my classes focused on biochemistry, genetics, immunology, and embryology. I also really enjoyed getting involved at a church in London called St. Helen's. It was encouraging to be able to get to know Christians 4,000 miles away, and know that we share the common bond of Jesus. Some of the most precious moments of my fall semester were spent in Scotland. The Isle of Skye is an amazing place, and the views up there were perhaps the most beautiful I have ever seen.


 Matt Ahrenholz The Cuillin  Quiriang   Further up


Derek Lee, Senior Biology Major, in the Philippines for HNGR

For 6 months I lived in the municipality of Quezon in the island of Palawan in the country of the Philippines.  Quezon is a rural fishing town, and most of the people there work as fishermen or farmers.  It's also secretly the most beautiful place in the world, with quiet beaches and soaring mountains.  I worked with Luke Society, which is a sort of medical missions (loosely-put) organization that is committed to providing affordable health care to the poorer people in Quezon.  I spent most of my time with my host community.  My day to day schedule would vary a lot.  Some days I would spend with the kids in my community, playing volleyball or taking walks with them along the pier.  Sometimes I would spend time with the mother in my community, as they taught me how to cook many delicious Filipino foods.  On many days I would even go fishing for dinner or plowing with a water buffalo for my own rice!  I also spent a lot of time working in my own intestinal helminth lab, which I ran out of my living area.  I collected stool samples from local kids, many of whom couldn't afford to go to school or wear shoes, so they were at risk for heavier infections.  I would then create treatment seminars where I could also teach how to prevent infection.  It was a stinky task but I loved every bit of it!  Interacting with people in the Philippines taught me how to mourn with others.  


 Derek and friends  Derek and net  Derek and ox  Derek and Dr. Koo


Space Lab in Microbiology!

The assignment was semester-long and it culminated with creative presentations.  

 Space Lab 1  Space Lab 2  space lab 03  Space Lab 4
 space lab 5  Space lab 6    

The students were asked to research an environment outside of our planet where they could look for and study microorganisms and their adaptations to these environments. They were to design and equip a lab that would allow them to do the research on these extraterrestrial microbes. The assignment also included a faith-based discussion on whether God created life outside of planet Earth. The presentations were done to convince the professor, Dr. Koo, and the rest of the class that their project is interesting and fundable (the audience was the funding agency.


Josh Roden '15, Presents at Argonne Undergraduate Symposium

Josh Roden

Senior Josh Roden gave an oral presentation on “Heat Resistance and Volatility of a Male Pheromone in Brown Algae Gametophytes” at the Argonne Undergraduate Symposium on Friday, November 7, at the Argonne National Laboratory. Josh successfully completed this research project with Dr. Ray Lewis in Spring 2014, exploring the chemical nature of a pheromone that induces egg production in brown algae. While at Argonne, Josh and Dr. Lewis attended the talks of other students, spoke with other students presenting posters, and took a tour of the Advanced Photon Source where much basic and applied research takes place.


Dr. Scott’s Summer Research Projects in Costa Rica

Dr. Rod Scott of the Wheaton College Biology Department recently spent a month working on several biology research projects at the Whitworth University’s Costa Rica Center with two Wheaton students, Luke Taylor and Lily Quiroa; in addition to their involvement in the research, Taylor and Quiroa also did internships during part of each week.

Luke and Lily costa rica

The research projects that Dr. Scott and his students worked on grew out of his Fulbright-funded sabbatical in 2012, and a two month biology research program that was part of the “Wheaton in Costa Rica” program last summer. 

The projects included one in which the Wheaton group collaborated with a professor from Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional who uses a technique called DNA barcoding to study several species of tropical squirrels. Another project focused on using molecular genetics to study populations of the tropical bird known as the collared aracari. And a third project was aimed at developing and utilizing a relatively simple molecular assay to diagnose a disease caused by a single-celled parasite that infects honey bees. This is an important project because honey bees are necessary for the pollination of many plants, and there has recently been a world-wide decline in honey bee populations associated with diseases like this one.

The project with honey bee parasites is one that Dr. Scott initiated during this past school year with the help of students Tim Chung and Erik Swanson. Dr. Scott initiated this project because a Costa Rican biologist, Rafael Calderon asked him if he knew of a simple method to extract DNA from the parasite so that the DNA could be analyzed to assess which of two possible species of the parasite is present. Though Dr. Scott was not able to find a simple protocol specific for the parasite in question, he and his students were able to adapt a protocol for extracting DNA from fungal spores for use with this parasite. The protocol involves a simple series of steps that culminates with DNA extraction by irradiating the spores of the parasite with microwaves from a standard microwave oven (this is much simpler and less expensive than other options currently used). They hope to publish this protocol in the near future as a relatively simple and low cost alternative for scientists working with bees in developing countries.

This summer, Scott taught this technique to a Costa Rican Student, Cynthia Vega, who works in Dr. Calderon’s lab. Cynthia costa rica

Ms. Vega will use the technique with a large number of samples that Dr. Calderon has collected over the years. Hopefully, this will be the first step in a process that will result in this new diagnostic procedure becoming a common practice in Costa Rica and eventually in other locations around the world.

In addition to the research that Dr. Scott and his students conducted, Scott also took some time to become acquainted with a Costa Rican environmentalist named Frank Gutierrez and to learn more about his vision for a new nature preserve in the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica. Gutierrez is not only an environmentalist, but he is also a Christian who has a deep desire to glorify God in his work. Gutierrez has a foundation called Oro Verde that is currently trying to buy a large piece of land in Costa Rica’s Osa peninsula where it will establish a nature preserve that will also function as an education center, a site from which to conduct ministries, and a base of operations to host student internships. Rod Donna and Frank costa rica
Scott (together with his wife Donna who visited him for a week) traveled with Gutierrez to see the property and to learn more about Gutierrez’s vision. As part of his report to the GEL office, Scott will recommend that Wheaton College find ways to partner with Oro Verde to bring students to Costa Rica for various types of cross-cultural educational/ministry experiences. 
The short time that Scott and his students spent in Costa Rica was quite full – Scott believes that his students benefited greatly both from their participation in the research and from their internship experiences. He also feels very gratified that significant research was accomplished, and that he was able to maintain and further develop his network of professional contacts in Costa Rica.


Dr. Koo Attends Two Microbiology Conferences

On May 15-20, Dr. Koo had the opportunity to attend two conferences in Massachusetts. One of the two conferences was the American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) where Dr. Koo had a chance to interact with ~350 faculty who exclusively teach undergraduates microbiology. She participated in sessions that focused on the topics of curriculum guidelines, how to facilitate active learning and those that gave ideas on course-integrated undergraduate research. Dr. Koo especially enjoyed the “Microbrew Sessions” where faculty presented short 15-minute talks with examples from their classrooms on many different topics, from research projects to assessment tools and techniques. She was privileged to chair one of these “Microbrew” sessions (the first figure is an example of an immunology ‘game’ that was presented to help students understand the action of different immune cells). micro conference 2

The second conference that Dr. Koo attended was the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (asm2014). This was a large conference (20, 000 attendees) where ~150 concurrent plenary and another 100 symposium sessions were happening concurrently in three days and almost 3000 scientific posters were presented (one of the images shows the poster exhibit hall at asm2014). Microbiology Conference 1Dr. Koo took advantage of a mobile app to plan the schedule of the talks and connected with many colleagues in the filed. Here pictured is Dr. Koo with Dr. Luiz Pedro Sório de Carvalho, currently on faculty at the Medical Research Council (MRC) National Institute for Medical Research in London, UK. Dr. Koo and Dr. de Carvalho were post-docs in the same lab at Weill Medical College of Cornell and Dr. de Carvalho was at the asm2014 as a recipient of the prestigious Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Award.Micro conference 3


Erik VerHage, '15, Naples, FL. Fishing Guide for Montana Angler Fly Fishing!

This summer I am working as a fly fishing guide for Montana Angler Fly Fishing, guiding walk-wade or float fishing trips on rivers all over Southwest Montana. The information I learned from the ecology course in the Black Hills two summers ago has been invaluable on my trips allowing me to provide my clients with the ecological background for the observed fish behavioral pattern as well as other interesting facts about mountain ecology.The image below is of me fishing the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park on one of my days off.

Eirk VerHage



Sarah Hofer ’16, Sioux Falls, SD., Visits the Holy Lands!

I spent the first 6 weeks of my summer on the Wheaton in the Holy Lands program, visiting Israel, Greece, Turkey and Italy. We visited a number of INCREDIBLE places, including Jerusalem, Galilee, Athens, Thessaloniki, Ephesus, Pergamum and finally Rome. The photo shows 5 of us throwing our coins in the Trevi Fountain on one of the last nights of our trip, which, despite the scaffolding and lack of water, was one of the most beautiful sites in Rome. 

Sarah Hofer


Left to right: Sarah Hofer, Angela Tsarouhis, Lauren Wilhite, Caroline Caciano and Ellen Wertz


Seth Gresham '16, Chalfont, PA., Medical Missions Trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia!

Seth Gresham

I just got back from a 6 week medical missions trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia. While I was there, I shadowed doctors in a hospital and spent time with kids at 3 different orphanages. At the hospital, I got to observe several surgeries and appointments in many different specialties. We also held several free clinics and had about 200 patients come to each. Every Saturday, we met up with some missionaries and helped them out with "baby washing" once a week. Poor people came to a plaza and we bathed their kids and gave them new clothes. Although I gained significant medical experience, my favorite part was definitely building relationships with the people there.


Biology Alumnae Inae Esther Jang '14 Prepares to Be a High School Teacher!

For the past three weeks, I've been preparing to be a high school biology teacher in Chicago, by participating in the Teach For America 6-week summer training program. I'm in Chicago, teaching summer school for a month and also taking classes in methods/pedagogy, after which point, I'll transition to preparing to teach my own classes in my school - Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, in Pilsen. It's been extremely challenging in every way, to transition from being a student in a Christian institution to becoming a teacher in a very liberal environment. But I've been learning a lot about bringing my strengths, beliefs, and identity everywhere I go.


Mark Hiben '15, Glen Ellyn Helps to Oversee the Residential Camp Program at HoneyRock!

This summer my team of 4 Wheaton Students (including myself) are overseeing the Residential Camp program at HoneyRock, Wheaton College's Outdoor Center for Leadership Development. Residential Camp is only one of many camper programs at HoneyRock, serving children going into 3rd grade all the way to 8th grade. Besides running the program, my job also involves overseeing the roughly 30 college students enrolled in HoneyRock's Summer Leadership School (SLS) program. These students serve at HoneyRock as counselors for the 3rd-8th graders who come to camp for the summer. Specifically, I oversee a group of 8 men from Wheaton and Covenant colleges, facilitating spiritual formation as well as their development as leaders. 

Mark Hiben

Mark Hiben 2

One of the perks of working at HoneyRock is the ability to spend the summer in the beautiful northwoods of Wisconsin. From the beautiful lakes, to bald eagles and the milky way galaxy that is so present, the Lord's creativity and beauty is easily seen. There is nothing I enjoy more than going for a late night paddle on Long Lake, canoeing through a star-filled lake due to the reflection of the sky in the water.


Sarah Mudra '16, Wheaton, IL., Participates in the University of Louisville's Cancer Education Program!

Sarah Mudra

This summer, I am participating in the University of Louisville's Cancer Education Program. My mentor, a medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in breast cancer, and I are working on a project together studying the detection of breast cancer in the James Graham Brown Cancer Center's Mobile Mammography Unit. This van seeks to provide screening mammograms to underserved women in Jefferson County, Kentucky. My job has been primarily to pull information from patients' charts and compile a database that includes various demographic information as well as pathologic details of the woman's cancer. At the end of the program, I will present the results to my peers and other faculty members. I have also had the opportunity to work with my mentor in her clinic, observing how she specializes treatment to each patient. I've particularly enjoyed attending the weekly multidisciplinary meetings with the breast cancer treatment team where a group of around 4 oncologists, 2 pathologists, many nurses, several social workers, pharmacists  and other specialists meet to discuss each patient's case and treatment plan. 


Danny Lim '15 Participates in a Summer Internship at the University of Iowa-Radiology and Nuclear Medicine Departments!

Danny Lim and Dr. Graham

I just completed my summer research internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Radiology and Nuclear Medicine departments. I've been incredibly blessed in every step of the way in meeting Dr. Michael Graham (MD, PhD, President of the Society of Nuclear Medicine), Dr. John Kim (MD, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston), and Ms. Nichole Jenkins (Radiology Librarian). Dr. Graham and I are publishing an abstract with the Society of Nuclear Medicine and will be presenting our findings at the SNM annual meeting this October! The image you see is with Dr. Graham. My research experience was both intellectually stretching as well as stimulating. Our research objective was to create indices of pre-test probabilities, post-test probabilities, and likelihood ratios for people with a Parkinson's disease (PD) prognosis using a new imaging modality called an SPECT-DaTSCAN. For now, radiology impressions are largely qualitative in nature; I must qualify that the process of diagnosing PD from a host of other neurological pathologies with similar tremor symptoms is a technically difficult task, and one that neurology/radiology/nuclear medicine fields have grown in understanding quite rapidly over the past 4 years. The amount of literature is substantial. Our hope is to create more objective, quantitative measures for Parkinson's disease likelihood and progression to optimize proper clinical treatment. Our research is ongoing and shows much promise.

By the undeserved grace of God, my summer has been mercifully fruitful, faithfully rewarded, and filled with His presence at the work place. I have seen that God's grace abounds more freely in places of suffering. As a Christian entering into a socially designated sacred space of exception from the everyday rhythms of life, I see that Jesus reigns in the American medical space through His sons and daughters.

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