Bethany, W.Va. – Three Bethany College students are participating in the fourth annual West Virginia Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol on February 8, 2007, which features 87 students representing 12 West Virginia colleges and universities.
Bethany College students who are participating are:

Joe McClane, a Chemisty major from Follansbee, W.Va.

Vanessa Plumly, a German and History major from Barnesville, Ohio

Melanie Ward, a Biology and Chemistry major from Cross Lanes, W.Va.

McLane focused his research on neurotrophins which are molecules that support the survival and adaptation of nervous tissue by inhibiting triggered cell death. His project is entitled “The Localization of Neurotrophin Receptors on the Neurons of Airway Ganglia in Ferrets.”

The hypothesis of his research is that neurotrophins alter the levels of neurotransmitters by binding to neurotrophin receptors. The specific goal is to describe the association of the neurotrophin receptors and the airway neurons that contain specific neurotransmitters through the examination of sections of ferret trachea.

Plumly is presenting her German senior project titled “The ‘GDR Children’ from Namibia as an Example of Multicultural Identity Formation.” Her project explores the formation of multicultural and hyphenated identities using 430 Namibian children taken from refugee asylums to East Germany during the independence war in Namibia, who are known as the “GDR children.”

Most of these children left Namibia at a very young age and spent more than 10 years in Germany without their parents or any contact to their country. When the war in Namibia came to an end these children were forced to return home to a place that was foreign to them and most couldn’t recall what Namibia was like before they left for Germany.

With the globalization of the world, multicultural identities are becoming more common. In Plumly’s research, factors that influence and form multicultural identity are explored in the context of the children’s experience.

Ward did her summer internship at Marshall University where she studied the role of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase in growth hormone signaling in the rat hippocampus, an area of the brain known to play an important role in learning and memory that contains growth hormone receptors.

Growth hormone deficiency has been shown to reduce learning and memory function. She also performed a study to determine how different growth hormone signaling inhibitors affected the activation of MAP kinase. Ward’s studies found that MAP kinase is activated in response to growth hormone and that certain inhibitors will slow down the activation of MAP kinase.

Undergraduate Research Day will be held in the Capitol Rotunda in Charleston, W.Va. The format will be a poster session featuring research conducted by undergraduate students under the guidance of faculty mentors from colleges and universities across the state.

Travel funding for the trip from Bethany to Charleston was provided by West Virginia Idea Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE), NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium/NASA EPSCoR and Bethany College.

The purpose of this event is to familiarize state legislators to some of the research activities involving undergraduate students that occur on campuses in West Virginia and the educational impact of those activities.

Other colleges and universities represented during Undergraduate Research Day are Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Marshall University, Ohio Valley College, Shepherd University, University of Charleston, West Liberty State College, West Virginia University, West Virginia University Institute of Technology, West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wheeling Jesuit University.