BLaST Offers Summer Research Experiences with an Alaskan Flair

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By Amy Topkok


From working in a lab and refining techniques to being out in the field collecting specimens, conducting research experiments and recording data, summer in Alaska means many things. For those interested in research and becoming a scientist, it means being able to work with highly qualified and seasoned faculty working in many different research opportunities. Summer research also means attending and participating in several events offered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to engage and learn about research projects.


One Health Workshop with BLaST and Ft. Lewis College Undergraduates

In May, the BLaST Program at UAF hosted a ten-day workshop for two UAF students and five students from Fort Lewis College, a BLaST partner institution. This workshop explored research methodologies and “One Health” concepts - the interactions between humans, animals and the environment. This workshop also focused on providing students with opportunities to learn about Alaska Native culture and how culture ties into scientific research. Students met Alaska Native Elders for a luncheon, visited the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, and toured the UAF Museum of the North. They discussed research projects, visited research laboratories at UAF and participated in local field trips to learn about environmental systems. They visited a local farm, a sled dog kennel, the permafrost tunnel, and participated in a geography tour of Fairbanks. Students discussed the impacts and importance of One Health issues in their communities and learned how to develop a One Health project proposal. At the end of the workshop, students attended the One Health Research Conference in Fairbanks, Alaska.





One Health Research Conference of Alaska (ORCA)

The 2019 One Health Research Conference of Alaska, organized as a joint meeting with the Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference (WAISC) and American Association for the Advancement of Science Arctic Division Meeting, was held May 15-17 in Fairbanks.

This annual conference, formerly called the University of Alaska Biomedical Research Conference, focused on One Health-related research from institutions throughout Alaska. Oral and poster presentations as well as keynote speakers were presented each day, and covered a wide range of topics including the Yup’ik diet, understanding permafrost and integrative Indigenous knowledge in 3D models, exploring DNA cell structures in physiology, plant ethnobotany, air and water quality, and much more. BLaST co-organized the conference and provided support staff during the event. In attendance were 34 faculty and postdocs, 29 undergraduates, 23 graduate students, 22 UA staff, and 11 others from around Alaska and out of state.


For more information, please check out the ORCA website.


Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) Research

From May 29 to July 12, 2019, six high school students from throughout Alaska are participating in two research projects during the UAF 2019 Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) Research program. Students will earn four college credits by taking 6-week versions of BLaST’s introductory research courses. “Introduction to Biomedical Research” taught by Research Advising and Mentoring Professionals (RAMPs) Emily Sousa and Theresa Vertigan, introduces students to research principles, study design, ethics, and science communication.

In the “Entering Research” course, students participate in hands-on laboratory and field research projects under the mentorship of two UAF researchers, Don Larson and Andrew Cyr. Larson, a faculty member in the Department of Biology and Wildlife, is leading a project called “Seasonality and overwintering physiology of Trichobilharzia alaskensis, a causative agent of Swimmer's Itch”, focused in particular on the parasite that infest lake snails. Cyr, a recent Ph.D. recipient in Fisheries, is leading a project called “Mercury feeding ecology: comparing a terrestrial and aquatic food web.” Both classes will culminate with a final poster and oral presentation, delivered to BLaST staff and other RAHI participants.




The RAHI course aims to have high school students experience research project activities at an earlier age, allowing them to see what it really means to become a scientist, that science is within their reach, and to develop their passion about research projects that they may be interested in. For more information about RAHI, please visit their website.




The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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