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Biology students dive deep into research during spring 2024 semester

Several biology students at WVU Tech embarked on an exciting journey of discovery in the field of biological sciences during the spring 2024 semester. Under the guidance of faculty members Dr. Jay Raymond, Dr. Aida Jimenez and Dr. Naresh Ramesh, students engaged in several research activities in a variety of topics, from studying the intricate ecosystems of local habitats to delving into cutting-edge research in endocrine biology. Students had several opportunities to showcase their work locally and regionally.

This month, one senior biology student, Hannah Shufflebarger, won “Best oral presentation” at the 98th Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Academy of Science.

“It is notable that she won this award in a session filled with research presentations from master’s and Ph.D. students from other notable universities in West Virginia,” said Dr. Naresh Ramesh, Assistant Professor of Biology at WVU Tech. “It is a testament to our grounded research and passionate undergraduate research training.”

Dr. Ramesh, a man with dark hair and glasses and a jean jacket over a WVU Tech shirt, and Hannah Shufflbarger, a young woman with dark hair and a WVU Tech shirt, are standing together smiling.
Dr. Ramesh and Hannah Shufflebarger

Shufflebarger’s research focused on a naturally produced intestinal hormone called Nesfatin-1, known to stimulate insulin secretion and reducing appetite, which is crucial for mitigating obesity.

“Nesfatin-1 increases the secretion of a hormone called GLP-1 in the intestine of mice which regulates feeding behavior and drives up insulin secretion. This has implications as a drug for treating diabetes and obesity, both of which are major problems in West Virginia. Some of the newer  diabetes treatments are synthetic GLP-1 injections, where Nesfatin-1 drives up the release of the natural GLP-1 produced in the gut,” Shufflebarger explained.

“The fact that a natural protein secreted in our intestine (Nesfatin-1) can enhance GLP-1 secretion is important and a crucial start point to potentially mitigate diabetes and obesity using what we have and already produce healthily, without a need for injecting synthetic compounds,” says Dr. Ramesh.

Shufflebarger will be continuing her education at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, West Virginia, after graduation to become a doctor.

All of the research students participated in contributes to expanding scientific knowledge and give them invaluable hands-on experience. The biology department is proud to support and nurture the next generation of scientists and looks forward to the many more discoveries and contributions that these and other biology students will continue to make at WVU Tech.

Presentation titles and conferences are listed below first chronologically and then alphabetically based on presenter.

February 2024 - Undergraduate Research Day at the WV Capitol 2024, Charleston, WV

· Title: Terrestrial Insect Populations in Field and Forest Restoration Areas. Students: Emma Jarrell, Tehya Smith, and Isabella Saddler. Advisor: Jay Raymond. Area of focus: Ecosystem restoration.

· Title: Searching for biologically active products in the microbiome in the haustorium of Epifagus virginiana. Students: Logan Waugh and Makayleigh Blankenship; Advisor: Aida E. Jimenez; Area of focus: Bioactive compounds.

Two students stand in front of their research. A young woman, Makayleigh, wears and shaw and Logan, a young man, wears a plaid button up shirt.
Makayleigh Blankenship and Logan Waugh, juniors in the Tech biology department

March 2024 - Association of Southeastern Biologists, Chattanooga, TN

· Title: Ecological restoration of Pike Pond and Terry Top, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia. Student: Candace Crawford; Advisor: Jay Raymond. Area of focus: Ecosystems and Landscapes.

· Title: Cataloguing and Digitizing Specimens of the Violet S. Phillips Herbarium. Student: Emma Jarrell; Advisor: Jay Raymond. Area of focus: Plant Collections and Herbaria.

A young woman, Emma Jarrell, stands in front of her research poster.
Emma Jarrell, a senior, stands in front of her research poster.

April 2024 - West Virginia Academy of Science, Glenville, WV

· Title: Evidence of Nesfatin-1 in Mouse Intestinal Enteroendocrine Cells. Student: Logan Hatfield. Advisor: Naresh Ramesh. Area of focus: Endocrinology. Student: Logan Hatfield. Advisor: Naresh Ramesh. Area of focus: Endocrinology.

· Title: Whole-Body Loss of NUCB2/Nesfatin-1 Alters Enteric Hormone Expression. Student: Hannah Shufflebarger. Advisor: Naresh Ramesh. Area of focus: Endocrinology.  Winner of best oral presentation at the conference.  

· Title: Identifying and characterizing antibiotic producers found in and on the haustorium of Epifagus virginiana. Student: Logan Waugh. Advisor: Aida E. Jimenez; Area of focus: Microbiome science.

A group of professors and students stand together.
From back left to right: Hannah Shufflebarger, Logan Hatfield, Logan Waugh, Dr. Naresh Ramesh. Front: Dr. Aida Jiminez

April 2024 - New River Symposium 2024

· Title: An Assessment of Aquatic Invertebrates at an Ecosystem Restoration and Reference Site in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve WV. Student: Cole Cline. Advisor: Jay Raymond. Area of focus: Ecosystem Restoration.

· Title: Botanical inventory of Piney Creek Preserve, Beckley, WV. Student: Elijah Strickland. Advisor: Jay Raymond. Area of focus: Plant identification & inventory.

A group of three young men stand alternating between two research posters.
From left to right: Senior Cole Cline, Dr. Jay Raymond and sophomore Elijah Strickland