Bethany Students, Faculty Receive NASA Research Funding 

BETHANY, W.Va. – Six Bethany College students and three faculty members have received funding through the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, according to Bethany Professor of Biology Dr. John T Burns. Burns serves as the College’s NASA WV Space Grant Representative.

Dr. Jennifer Franko, Assistant Professor of Biology; Dr. Carolyn Kitchens, Assistant Professor of NASAfaculty.jpgChemistry; and Dr. Scott Brothers, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, have received NASA Faculty Research Enhancement Awards for collaborative research with Bethany College students.

Franko’s research is on the effect of Triclosan exposure on T-cell activation. Kitchens’ research is on determining the presence of the CaMV 35-S promoter in USDA approved organic and non-organic soybeans. Brothers’ research is on the synthesis and characterization of single- and multi-walled nanotubes from basic carbon feedstocks.

Students receiving scholarships include Chemistry major Alexander DelGiorno of Wadsworth, Ohio, who will continue his research with Dr. Kitchens on a spectroscopic analysis of meat proteins in varying pH and temperature conditions.

“Food that is served buffet-style is often incorrectly reheated,” DelGiorno said. “And USDA guidelines may be too ambiguous, so I’m looking into whether the food should be checked more frequently or should be reheated at different temperatures.”

Incorrect reheating could lead to food having less nutritional value, or could cause the consumer to get sick, he said.

While he’s not sure yet what he will do with his finished research, the process has already helped him academically: DelGiorno received a biomedical internship, and the research he’s done gave him an advantage in the interview process as well as in the lab.NASAstudents.jpg

“Bethany has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had somewhere else. The faculty members are involved so much, and I wouldn’t have even known about this scholarship opportunity without a faculty member personally talking to me about it.”  

Biology major Amber Lancaster of Weirton, W.Va., is mentored by Dr. Amanda Stewart, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Equine Studies, on a project investigating the relationship between diet-induced insulin resistance and sporadic AD pathology in Drosophila melanogaster.

Lancaster will feed fruit flies either sugar or yeast, determining the effect carbohydrates and sugars have, as well as how certain diets could lead to Type 2 diabetes. After graduating, Lancaster plans to study respiratory therapy, and said this research will give her an advantage while applying to graduate schools.

The remaining scholarship recipients include chemistry and mathematics major Jacob Fischer of Huntington, W.Va., who is working with Dr. Kitchens on determining low-level concentrations of compounds by using conducting polymers; chemistry major Samuel Duvall of Shadyside, Ohio, who is working with Dr. Brothers on capillary electrophoresis; chemistry major Morgan Jacobs, of Hurricane, W.Va., investigating with Dr. Kitchens the synthesis of algal biodiesel from different colored algae; and chemistry major Kristen Sroka of Elizabeth, Pa., who is mentored on her project on Omega 3s in seafood: potential for depression treatment by Dr. Lisa M. Reilly, Goulding-Woolery Professor in Chemistry, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department of Physical Science and Mathematics.

The WVSGC funding was matched 1:1 by Bethany College to provide a total of $12,000 for the faculty research and $22,000 for the student scholarships. The WVSGC is a NASA-sponsored organization dedicated to building research infrastructure and promoting science, technology, engineering and math research in West Virginia.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.