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Note Book

Fall 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 4

Campus hosts unique science and technology programs

The Bradley campus was full of life and brilliant minds this summer, thanks in part to Peoria NEXT, a Peoria foundation with the purpose of creating a healthier future for the Peoria regional community evidenced by increased economic growth and diversity, physical well-being, social stability, and opportunity.

Peoria NEXT and partner institutions conducted a unique combination of educational programs throughout the summer. The partnership is aimed at enhancing science and technology education and encouraging more young people to pursue professions in a variety of science and technology fields.

Summer research

Dr. Kristi McQuade, left, and Richwoods High School teacher Carol Norton conduct summer research, made possible by BEST.

BEST program

An education-workforce development program, Building Excellent Scientists for Tomorrow (BEST), involved nine K-12 teachers and 11 high school students from Peoria Public School District 150. The K-12 teachers were engaged in science content coursework and
a 10-week research internship with scientists at the USDA Ag Lab, UICOMP, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, and Bradley. The teachers also received mentoring in curriculum development and assessment.

“BEST is a comprehensive, yearlong professional development model designed so the teachers would start with this summer experience where they were the learners experiencing science as inquiry,” says Dr. Robert Wolffe, associate professor of education. “This fall and spring they will have the opportunity to continue to expand their expertise as science educators as they design, deliver to their students, and do action research on inquiry-based
science curricula.”

Carol Norton, a science teacher at Richwoods High School, and Rhonda Zimmerman, a sixth grade teacher at Loucks Edison Schools, worked with Dr. Kristi McQuade, assistant professor of chemistry, and Bradley student Marcel Bartik ’07, conducting experiments on a chaperone protein called gp96. Chaperones are a family of diverse proteins whose shared function inside a cell is to bind to other proteins for various purposes.

McQuade says gp96 is being tested as a cancer vaccine for humans. “They take the tumor out of the patient, purify gp96 from it, then give the gp96 back to the same patient,” she says. “The idea is that because it is a chaperone protein, gp96 purified from cancer cells is bound to pieces of proteins known as peptides, including some peptides that are unique to the cancer cells. The hope is that delivering the gp96 to the patient in the form of a vaccine will allow the immune system to recognize those unique peptides and thereby mount an attack against the cancerous cells.”

“This has been a very positive experience for me,“ says Norton. “Dr. McQuade has been tremendous as far as explaining what to do and the background so that we understand what we’re working towards. She explains the process as well as procedures.”

“Having the opportunity to do summer research is important for undergrads, teachers, and high school students,” says Bartik. “You get a different feel for what research is like, a better feel for successful parts of it, and you make progress much more rapidly than during the school year.”

The high school students selected for the research immersion component of the program worked with area scientists in laboratory settings at the Peoria NEXT institutions to gain experience with scientific investigation and problem solving skills.

The BEST program was funded by a $225,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation awarded to Bradley.

Collaborative research

Additionally, six undergraduate students recruited from around the country visited the Bradley campus to conduct ecological research focusing on the human impact on carbon and nitrogen dynamics of central Illinois ecosystems. The program paired students with faculty mentors Dr. Keith Johnson, assistant professor of biology, Dr. Kelly McConnaughay, professor of biology, Dr. Sherri Morris, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Erich Stabenau, associate professor of biology, to work on specific ecological projects and provide students with a greater understanding of scientific investigation as part of a collaborative research team. The research was made possible by a $163,000 grant Bradley received from the National Science Foundation.


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