Students pose for their conference

The project, which examined certain conditions optimal for fertility in cells, is one of many student-mentored research projects taking place in biology labs at BYU-Idaho.

September 14, 2017
Writer: Dain Knudson

Recent research efforts by students in the Department of Biology resulted in a third place finish at the 2017 Idaho Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Summer Research Conference in Moscow, Idaho.

The project, which examined certain conditions optimal for fertility in cells, is one of many student-mentored research projects taking place in biology labs at BYU-Idaho.

"The big overarching term is 'fertility'," said Jason Hunt, the faculty mentor who has overseen more than 50 student researchers since the lab started running. "We are trying to understand the mechanisms involved in fertility. We use cells as our model and manipulate conditions and try to create the best conditions for the growth of an embryo."

Mario Escobar, Dianna Cheney and Ryan Granger are the three students who presented the research they conducted over the summer as part of the INBRE fellowship program.

Escobar shared his experience about how the research process impacted his formal education at BYU-Idaho.

"It's been an extremely fertile environment for my passion to grow into something bigger," Escobar said. "I have had faculty to get me motivated to do something, we have an environment that nurtures those who seek it."

The research Hunt and his students are conducting shed light on techniques and methods to increase fertility.

"Our research suggests that metabolites of estrogen are very important for uterine glucose homeostasis," Hunt said. "We hypothesize that these metabolites of estrogen will prove to be essential for implantation and embryonic growth. We have shown that the enzymes associated with the metabolites are regulated differently in response to various conditions in the uterus. This suggests that the enzymes are regulated in a reproductive manner."

Along with this research, Escobar also recently published a paper on a new technique to isolate RNA-a technique he developed.

"It's been interesting; it's been a real hands-on experience," Escobar said. "Its not a cut and dry process. Instead, we come together and discuss the objectives we want to achieve, which gives us a direction for our projects."

Hunt emphasized how he helps students grow through the research they're conducting.

"Our students are able to realize that research is so important to good science," Hunt said. "When you really do the science and research, you gain more of a respect for what it is. You are a little more critical and careful with how you read and understand things."