The students worked with Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, and Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology
By Carrie Pasternak ’08
Tyler Saxton ’08 (Pleasanton, Calif.) and James Vasta ’10 (Willow Grove, Pa.) recently published separate research in Parasitology Research under the guidance of Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, and Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology.
- Vasta has also received a 2008 Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier undergraduate award in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering.
The research projects were conducted with the assistance of the College’s EXCEL scholars program, where students work closely with faculty while earning a stipend.
Lafayette’s focus on close student-faculty interaction has made it a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the hundreds of students who participate in the honors theses, independent study, and EXCEL programs each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.
Saxton, a biology major, focused on Echinostoma caproni parasites in snails. After the parasite infects the snails, Saxton used a salt medium to extract the organism from the cysts formed inside the snails. Saxton says that the salt medium is important because it mimics the stomach and intestine conditions of a rodent, the parasite’s natural definitive host. He says these parasites are good models for studying other diseases like trematodiasis and schistosomiasis, parasitic infections which commonly affect humans in developing countries.
Vasta, a chemistry major, used an analytical chemistry technique called high performance Thin Layer Chromatography to study mice that are infected with the same parasitic flatworm Echinostoma caproni. According to Vasta, the research is part of a larger project, which is attempting to improve diagnostic techniques for trematodiasis.
“I analyzed the neutral lipid profiles of mice infected with Echinostoma caproni, which is a model parasite for other trematodes and elicits a similar physiological response from its host,” Vasta explains.
Vasta says he was able to participate in every aspect of the research from sample collection, to data analysis, to writing the manuscript. “I was responsible for developing a technique to collect adequate volumes of mouse urine in a timely manner, extracting the lipids from the samples and analyzing them qualitatively and quantitatively, analyzing the data, and co-authoring the manuscript,” says Vasta.
After graduation, Vasta plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He plans to pursue a career in scientific research and possibly re-enter the world of academia to teach at the undergraduate level and continue his research. Vasta has also worked on four other research projects, two of which have been published in scholarly journals and two of which are awaiting publication.
Saxton plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in biology. He hopes to work as a wildlife biologist. Saxton has been working with Fried since last summer and in addition to this publication, has three other projects in press.
- EXCEL/Undergraduate Research