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Biology News

Fall Biology Department Chapel 

Students SingingThe Wheaton College Chapel Program designates one chapel service per semester as “Department Chapels”.  The Fall Department Chapel was held on Wednesday, November 28.  Freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors majoring in Biology joined Biology faculty and staff to worship God, our Creator.  Songs (led by 2 juniors), readings (led by 2 seniors), silent reflection, and small group prayer focused on the theme “Following Emmanuel”.   We reflected on God’s power and celebrated the coming of Emmanuel, God with Us.

No Bones About It! What a way to Study Bones of the Human Skeleton, Katie Gillaspie!

Drawing of BonesDrawing of bonesThe students in BIOL 331 Anatomy & Physiology I have spent the past few weeks learning bones and bone landmarks of the human skeleton.  As they prepare for their lab exam on this material, each student has his/her own preferred way to study.  Katie Gillaspie (class of 2020) studied by drawing each bone and labeling its structures.  She turned our lab’s whiteboard into a remarkable work of art.

Biology Major, Mara Walters '19, Works at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis

Working at Washington University, St. LouisThis summer, I got to work in a biochemistry/structural biology lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. I worked under a post-doctoral student studying the L polymerase protein of the Ebola and Marburg viruses. Essentially, we attempted to purify a portion of the end of this protein for both viruses over the course of the summer. While we were not able to complete the project before I left, we made significant progress and I learned a lot not only about what we were studying but also about having patience and confidence in what I was doing. I am very thankful for the experience and the ways I grew as both a scientist and a child of God.


Biology Major, Tyler Long '20, Interns at Feinberg Northwestern School of Medicine

Intern at Feinberg NorthwesternI was blessed to spend this summer as an intern at Feinberg Northwestern School of Medicine, where I was a student researcher in the neurogenetics laboratory of Dr. Teepu Siddique. There, I was involved with experiments on the mechanisms and causes of neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer's disease and ALS. I was personally responsible for conducting several experiments on both bacteria and mice models followed by statistical data analysis. I had the privilege of employing multiple techniques including cell culturing, transfection, genotyping, genetic sequencing, gel electophoresis, western blot, histology, immunohistochemistry, and electron microscopy. It was a very encouraging summer, as the Lord continued to teach me to rely on Him. I specifically saw His faithfulness through the fact that several of the techniques I learned in Wheaton laboratory courses last year prepared me for the techniques used in this summer's research. That advanced preparation gave me opportunity for expanded scope and responsibilities.

Dr. Rod Scott and His Summer Research Students Work on a New Project Sequencing genes from Two Minnow Species

Dr. Scott, Sarita George, and Justin Chu  Dr. Rod Scott, Sarita George and Justin ChuThis summer, students Sarita Davis (Née George) Biology Major '19 and Justin Chu Biology Major '20 are working with Dr. Rod Scott on a new project studying two cryptic minnow species. These two species can be distinguished by sequencing a gene from the mitochondrion, but physically, they appear identical. Dr. Scott, a colleague from the Shedd Aquarium, Dr. Phil Willink, and recent graduate Ben Norton just completed a project showing, for the first time, exactly where these two species occur in Illinois. Now, working with Willink, Davis, and Chu, Dr. Scott hopes to identify one or more nuclear genes that differ between the two species and that could be used to determine whether, and to what extent, the two species hybridize.

Dr. Nate Thom and His Summer Research Students Explore Effects of Exercise on Anger and Fatigue

Dr. Thom and his summer research studentOver the summer of 2018, as part of the Dean's Summer Research Program and with support from the Alumni Association, undergraduate student Lindsey Freier Psychology Major and Paul Ha Business Economics Major (not pictured), worked on several projects including two meta-analyses and a high-density EEG study in Dr. Thom's Brain Hygiene Lab.  The metas will explore the effects of acute and chronic exercise on anger and fatigue, and the EEG study is part of Lindsey's thesis where she will measure the relationship between leadership traits and resting-state brain activity.

Dr. Vanya Tepavčević Presents Her Research at the 30th Squid-Vibrio Conference

Dr. Koo presents research at Squid Vibrio Conference

The 30th Squid-Vibrio Conference (also known as the Squid-Vibrio Pow Wow) took place recently in June at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (UCSD) in La Jolla, CA. They celebrated 30 years of work on the bobtail squid - Vibrio fischeri research, first initiated by Ned Ruby and Margaret McFall-Ngai. With the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, attendees heard the newest progress in the field of this symbiosis, along with keynote presentations from Pete Greenberg and Carrie Harwood (University of Washington), Rob Knight (UCSD) and Doug Barrett (Scripps) that spanned the topics of bacterial communities, earth microbiome and microbes living in the deepest parts of the planet. Wheaton College’s Biology Department Microbiologist, Dr. Vanya Tepavčević presented her work on the role of sRNA chaperones Hfq and ProQ in controlling the functions of Vibrio fischeri that are necessary for symbiosis.

Biology Major, Danae Witte'19, President of 2018-2019 Symbiosis, Interns at Kansas State University

This summer, I am studying antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic alternatives in food animal agriculture under the direction of Dr. Raghavendra Amachawadi and Dr. T.G. Nagaraja at Kansas State University. As part of my internship, I am working on an independent research project focused on the use of various secretions by probiotic strains of bacteria on disease-causing bacteria found in liver abscesses isolated from cattle beef breeds. This study is laying the groundwork for future alternatives to antibiotics through in vitro studies in hopes of later using in vivo methods to prevent liver abscesses in these animals. I have already seen God at work here through the people he has placed around me: wonderful colleagues, mentors, and peers. My lab operates like a family, and they have welcomed me with open arms. This has even extended to them inviting me into their homes, helping me get around Manhattan, and patiently teaching me the ropes in a large and busy lab. I am very thankful for the opportunity to be in Manhattan this summer, and I’m looking forward to applying the skills I learn at K-State to my future research at Wheaton in the Koo lab.

Bio-Bash 2018 End of the Year Celebration



The Bio-Bash End of the Year Celebration is sponsored by BSAC and Symbiosis students who plan the end of the year celebration by decorating, preparing food, beverages, and games to celebrate the year end. Biology Department Honors and Awards are given later in the evening along with senior pictures, and other prizes. This year’s theme (since it felt like winter would never end, thanks to Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction!) was “Ice Age”!

The Biology Department Celebrates DNA Day April 25th!

This year the Biology Department celebrated DNA Day on April 25th with the Profs flipping pancakes and Dr. Rorem’s husband making his famous waffles! It was a big hit with the students before and after the morning classes! 


Biology Major, Jake Schaafsma '18 Presents Research at Millikin University

Presentation at Millikin

Jake Schaafsma '18 presented the results of his research with Dr. Ray Lewis at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences annual meeting at Millikin University on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Jake’s presentation on “Comparing Oogenesis in Two Ecomorphs of the Giant Kelp Macrocystis pyrifera in Response to Iron Nutrition” won an honorable mention for undergraduate presentations in Botany. Great job Jake!


 BSAC and Symbiosis Students Host Biology Department Social with Donuts from Mariano's!


Biology Majors and their friends gathered around for fellowship and food on Thursday April 12th for a Biology Department Social. Students from BSAC and Sybiosis brought 4 boxes of Mariano's donuts for the celebration! What a treat for the faculty, staff and students! Seniors gathered around the Biology mural to take their senior picture. Congratulations Seniors! We are going to miss all of you!

Dr. Nate Thom and his Research Students Celebrate Brain Week in the Brain Hygiene Lab!

Ever wonder about how your brain is doing? Dr. Nate Thom and his research students did just that by celebrating National Brain Week March 12-16, 2018. With the catchy slogan, "Come and Explore the only Organ that Discovered Itself," Dr. Thom's Brain Hygiene Lab in the Biology Department of Meyer Science Building had a steady stream of faculty, staff, students and even the President of Wheaton College, Dr. Philip Ryken trying on the brain hat! Student researchers working with Dr. Thom explained their research and the procedure they performed on each participant. For further information about the Brain Hygiene Lab and Neuroscience, contact Dr. Nate Thom in the Biology Department.