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Paper Explores Use of Shell Material to Gather DNA From Mollusks

Paper Explores Use of Shell Material to Gather DNA From Mollusks

This research isn’t associated with IMCI but Christine Parent and Lisette Waits are both IMCI participants and we love touting good news.

Kelly Martin, a biology doctorate student, and two faculty members, including Christine Parent, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Lisette Waits, distinguished professor in the College of Natural Resources, jointly produced a paper on mollusk shells that appeared in BioScience, a peer-reviewed science journal published by Oxford University. The paper explores the use of unconventional DNA sources from mollusks, which have the highest number of extinctions of any taxonomic group. Traditionally, mollusk shell material was used for morphological research. Not until recently has it been used in DNA studies. Successful recovery of shell DNA can help answer ecological and evolutionary questions and protect molluscan diversity, according to the paper.

Biology Professor Recognized by Alma Mater for Success, Service and Leadership

Jim Bull is an essential IMCI participant. He is a member of our Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) and participates in several working groups. The U of I is lucky to have him! View the original press release here.

February 17, 2021

College of Science Professor Jim Bull has been recognized as the 2021 Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumnus by Texas Tech University College of Arts and Sciences, where he earned an undergraduate degree before earning his doctorate from the University of Utah. The award recognizes former teachers and students for their “innovation, community service and leadership, pursuit of excellence, public accountability and diversity.” Jim was also recognized for his “professional success and service to the community and representation of the university” as an “undeniable candidate for this prestigious honor.”

When Jim, an evolutionary biologist, joined the U of I faculty in fall 2019, he was the first National Academy of Sciences (NAS) member to be affiliated with an educational institution in Idaho. He was elected to NAS in 2016. The academy is a nonprofit, private society of scholars charged by Congress to provide the nation objective and independent counsel on scientific and technological matters.

Jim specializes in the evolution of viruses and sex determination. He served on the Science board of reviewing editors for 13 years, chaired the National Institute of Health’s Genetic Variation Evolution Study Section for two years and is an American Academy of Arts and Sciences member.

Disease Deadliness And Willingness To Vaccinate Linked, Study Shows

Congratulations to IMCI participants on their recent publication in PLOS Medicine. The following news story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau. View the original article here.

A newly published study out of the University of Idaho suggests that the higher perceived risk of a disease, the more likely someone is to vaccinate.

The researchers surveyed about 2,400 people back in 2018, and the analysis of those answers shows that perceived deadliness played a big role in vaccination decisions.

Participants were randomly given different hypothetical disease scenarios, and, as a news release explains, “vaccination willingness was greater for participants who were given information about the potential deadliness of a disease, versus those told how severely it could impact daily life.”

It also found that certain demographics – like those with higher incomes, older people and men – were also more willing to vaccinate.

University of Idaho philosophy professor Bert Baumgaertner, who co-authored the study, said another factor was at play, too – politics.

“Especially the very liberals and the very conservatives, they actually behave quite similarly in terms of how their ideology seems to be influencing their decisions,” Baumgaertner said.

Essentially, they both stuck to their guns regardless of the risk, with conservatives less willing to vaccinate and liberals more willing.

There are caveats, though: This survey didn’t measure for changes in confidence around a vaccine’s safety. It was also done with hypothetical diseases, not the one everyone is focused on right now: COVID-19.

Still, according to the study, “This information can be helpful for campaigns that aim to reduce vaccine hesitancy and is useful for modeling feedback between human decision-making and the spread of disease.”

3-D Printer to Revolutionize Biofluids and Biomechanics Research

This news article comes from central University of Idaho Communications and Marketing. View the original here. While IMCI was not involved in the funding of this research project, we are honored to have Dr. Tao Xing as one of our IMCI participants.

October 20, 2020 – With the help of a more than $300,000 major research instrumentation grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of Idaho College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is installing a high-resolution, mixed-material 3-D printer. To be housed in the Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC), this state-of-the-art 3-D printer can print large, geometrically detailed and flexible 3-D structures. The printer can also produce pieces in extremely high resolution, 16 microns, about one-third the average cross-section of a human hair. This complex printing is not currently possible using other 3-D printers on the Moscow campus.

Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor and project lead Tao Xing said 3-D printed materials on the U of I Moscow campus are currently printed in several components that are later connected, which can introduce additional errors in the geometry and add difficulty in conducting high-fidelity experimental measurements.

“Using this new printer, researchers can analyze the physical constructs of complex structures to improve understanding of different mechanisms in the body, from breathing to brain-drug delivery, the effect of brain cancer drugs in-vitro and therapeutic approaches to traumatic brain injury,” said Xing. “This instrument will facilitate and enhance multidisciplinary research and expand academic-industrial collaborations at U of I.”

The NSF grant was awarded to a team consisting of nine faculty from four U of I colleges, including engineering, the College of Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources.

The installation of the printer is expected in spring 2021.

The printer will be part of a new lab in the IRIC focused on 3-D printing for studying biofluids and biomechanics. Both undergraduate and graduate students will have access to the printer and future lab. A one-credit course is currently being developed to provide training to use the new printer. The printer will also be used in 3-D-printing projects and competitions, including a partnership with the U of I chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) during their Women in Engineering events, held twice annually. Equipment time and training will be provided to advisors at local K-12 schools, including the Moscow High School Science Club and Near Space Engineering Club through the mission of the U of I Library’s Making, Innovating, Learning Laboratory training programs.

“Students will be exposed to structure-function relationships in tissues, 3-D drawing, mechanical analysis and state-of-the-art multi-material 3-D printing,” Xing said. “These outreach capabilities will broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities in engineering and related fields.”

This project was funded to University of Idaho by National Science Foundation under award 2019231. The total project funding is $360,774.00 of which 70% is the federal share.

Idaho Represented at National Diversity Conference

Three graduate students and 1 postdoctoral fellow from the University of Idaho are attending the 2020 SACNAS virtual conference this week thanks to IMCI and the Lauren Ancel Meyers Scholarship fund.

Dr. Meyers, a featured Seminar Speaker earlier this semester, is the Cooley Centennial Professor of Integrative Biology and Statistics & Data Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. She has been a pioneer in the application of computational models to improve outbreak detection, forecasting and control. Professor Meyers leads an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and public health experts in uncovering the drivers of epidemics and building practical tools for the CDC and other global health agencies to track and mitigate viral threats, including COVID-19, pandemic influenza, Ebola, HIV, and Zika.

SACNAS serves as a broadly inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics and Native Americans, from college students to professional in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM.

This multidisciplinary and multicultural event includes motivational keynote speakers, student research presentations, cultural celebrations and 1-on-1 mentoring opportunities.

Congratulations to scholarship recipients Travis Seaborn, Chava Castaneda, Breanna Sipley and Kristen Martinet.