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Professor Trimarchi recognized for outstanding mentoring of undergraduate students

From left, Madelyn Mullally. Professor Trimarchi, Caitlin Albrecht
Professor Trimarchi with undergraduates Madelyn Mullally

GDCB Professor Jeffrey Trimarchi was honored this spring by the University Honors Program for outstanding Honors teaching, advising, or mentoring.  Two awards are given annually to recognize Iowa State faculty and staff who support Honors at Iowa State through general excellence in teaching of Honors courses, seminars, or other courses taught for Honors credit; or in the mentoring of Honors students through academic advising, advising of Honors projects, and mentoring of students in the First-Year Honors/Mentor Research Program.

During his tenure at Iowa State, Professor Trimarchi has mentored many undergraduate students in his lab, including Madelyn Mullally, Caitlin Albrecht, Mary Horton, Alicia Manning, Annie Wester and Quinton Bose.  These students recently co-authored a research paper entitled Expression Profiling of Developing Zebrafish Retinal Cells (Zebrafish. 2016 Mar 16. [Epub ahead of print]).  The paper details their research on the examination of gene expression in developing retinal neurons using zebrafish that express green fluorescent protein in the eye.  Each undergraduate student was responsible for determining the expression of different genes and performed all the experiments from experimental design through expression analysis.  Through the series of in situ hybridizations, designed and performed by the undergraduate students, they were able to identify genes marking different developing retinal neurons.  Future experiments will now use genome editing techniques to assess the function of these genes.

Madelyn Mullally, a biology major, and Caitlin Albrecht, a nutritional science major, are both graduating seniors.  Caitlin will attend the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy to pursue her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, while Madelyn will attend the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis to earn her Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Annie Wester and Quinton Bose, both Biology majors, are in the same year as Madelyn and Caitlin.  Annie will also attend Southern College of Optometry in Memphis to earn her Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree, while Quinton will continue at ISU for an additional semester.  He plans to attend medical school in the future.  Alicia Manning, currently working at Pioneer and planning to enroll in DMU medical school in the fall, and Mary Horton, currently in a Master of Public Health program at Columbia University, both earned their BS degrees in Biology from ISU.  Three graduate students in the Trimarchi lab, Lauren Laboissonniere, Jillian Goetz and Rebecca Chowdhury, are also authors on this paper and helped oversee the undergraduate students with their day-to-day activities.

It is not unusual for Dr. Trimarchi’s research group to include ten-plus undergraduate researchers at one time.  Some are performing research on understanding the genetic basis of retinal development and some are doing work on the degeneration of motor neurons using three different model organisms: mouse, chick and zebrafish.  The authors of this paper believe research played an integral role in their education as both students of science and future clinical professionals. It taught them practical laboratory skills, while enabling them to experience the scientific method firsthand.  In addition, they were able to take the knowledge learned in classroom and apply it directly to experimental research performed in the lab.  More importantly, they believe participation in undergraduate research honed their critical thinking skills and enlightened their scientific curiosity in a manner that has transcended the classroom and conducting the research as a team with other undergraduate students strengthened their collaborative skills.