May 12, 2006

SIUC students win prizes at research symposium

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale took home cash prizes for research presented at the first–ever St. Louis Area Undergraduate Research Symposium, held April 22 at Washington University Medical School's Eric P. Newman Education Center.

Sara N. Reardon, a junior in microbiology from Springfield, took second place and $250 for an oral presentation examining genetic links to infertility and cancer. Raoul O. Ouedraogo, a senior in electrical engineering from Burkina Faso, won third place and $150 for a poster presentation examining a novel type of antenna. Ryan T. Jones, a junior in physiology from Blue Mound, received an honorable mention and $75 for his poster on nerve cells and glucose use.

Reardon and Jones are students in the College of Science; Ouedraogo is in the College of Engineering.

"From many perspectives, research is the highest form of teaching and learning, where the student and faculty member experiment, problem-solve and learn together," said SIUC Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Dean John A. Koropchak,

"For this reason, we have for several years been enhancing our opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research.

"The fact that three of 10 awards went to SIUC students, the only ones to go to students from a public university, is a great testament to the students and their faculty mentors, and to the enriched quality of experience that SIUC undergraduate students are receiving as a result of these programs. This kind of result is a great example of what Southern at 150 is all about."

Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, is the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

More than 50 students from St. Louis University, SIUC, the Columbia and Rolla campuses of the University of Missouri, Washington University and Webster University took part in the event, open to undergraduate researchers in science and engineering.

Reardon bred mice lacking a gene that regulates the overall structure of chromosomal DNA but doesn't change the DNA sequence, then analyzed the ensuing defects, which included loss of sperm and cancer, in their offspring. She found that sperm loss occurred in male offspring when the fathers lacked the gene but not when the mothers lacked the gene.

Her results indicate that specific DNA structures are established differently in the eggs and sperm of the parents, and changes in the structure can predispose offspring to infertility and cancer. Reardon is the daughter of Springfield residents David C. and Kim Ryan Reardon.

Many low-power communications and sensor-network applications are in the S-band part of the radio spectrum given to the industrial, scientific and medical band. Antennas for this band must be wide- or multi-band but also small with a steerable directional beam.

Ouedraogo's research introduced a novel, very small Quasi Yagi antenna at S-band with a very wide bandwidth. It also showed the implementation of the novel Quasi Yagi into an active phased array antenna consisting of a 2x1 linear array antenna, low noise amplifiers, delay lines and switches rather than an expensive phase shifter.

The small size of the elements, high efficiency and broadband characteristics of the array antenna make it an excellent candidate for several S-band applications that require huge volumes of data transfer at high speed among mobile users that are both ground based and space based.

Associate Professor Frances J. Harackiewicz, an electrical engineer, served as Ouedraogo's mentor. He is the son of Kadiogo residents Justin P. and Charlotte W. Ouedraogo.

Jones and his colleagues recorded the activity of nerve cells in brain slices to look at the relationship between glucose levels outside the cells and their capacity to communicate synaptically. This process underlies central nervous system function and requires a lot of energy, which glucose supplies. He also looked at the effects of aging.

His results revealed that older nerve cells don't use glucose as well, which could partly explain why learning, memory and other cortical functions decline as people age. They also begin to provide insight into new treatment strategies aimed at reducing this kind of decline.

Assistant Professor Peter R. Patrylo, a physiologist, served as Jones' mentor. He is the son of Norman T. Jones of Blue Mound (7922 Blue Mound Road) and Nancy R. Skube of Sherman (1505 Ascot Chase).