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Impact Magazine

Department News - Spring 2020

Student and faculty news from the School of Life Sciences and the Bean Museum.

Three plants in the Life Sciences Building.

MMBIO—Edwin Velázquez, a Microbiology and Molecular Biology PhD student, is a Simmons Center for Cancer Research Fellow. Through the center, Velázquez has received funding to study cancer immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to combat cancer. In his current research, Velázquez modifies immune cells, like T cells and Macrophages, to target tumors. He explains why the Simmons Center work is so important: “There are people waiting for this; we cannot let them wait for too long.”

EXSC—This semester, while at the senior games, a team of Exercise Sciences faculty and students conducted an extensive study of feet and ankles. The research is part of a larger project to investigate the effects of age and activity level on foot structure and function. The team has also collected a large sample from a young, active population and will soon repeat the tests on another elderly, but less active, population. The data has provided the researchers with ample material for academic papers. Professor Sarah Ridge says this has been a great opportunity for students to conduct research and work with scientific publications.

NDFS—Mandy Mathews, a graduate from the Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science’s combined internship and MS program, was recognized for her hard work and received one of Utah’s Outstanding Student Awards from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Working with Dr. Nathan Stokes, Mathews conducted research on student-operated restaurants, including the Pendulum Court Café. In addition, she completed various rotations and discovered a passion for clinical dietetics: “You’re helping people who are really sick and you can make a difference in their lives.”

PWS—Plant and Wildlife Sciences Professor Greg Jolley is a recipient of Lawn & Landscape’s 2019 Leadership Awards. Jolley joined the Department of Plant & Wildlife Sciences in 2004 and currently oversees the campus landscape internships. He is also the head coach of BYU’s collegiate landscape team, which has taken first in nationals seven times. Jolley says that what he loves most about teaching is helping students discover what they are really passionate about.

BIO—Dr. Sam Payne from the Department of Biology is working with Dr. Julie Valentine from the College of Nursing to develop software that more effectively processes DNA test kits for sexual assault cases. A student brought the issue to the professors’ attention, realizing the project required experts in both machine learning and forensic nursing. Payne explains that due to local law enforcement’s limited resources, test kits go unprocessed, preventing cases from moving forward. Payne’s team will use machine learning to identify what tests are highest priority, giving forensics labs a place to start. The project recently received funding from the National Institute of Justice.

PUBLIC HEALTH—Drs. Hall, West, and Crookston from the Department of Public Health conducted a study comparing the exercise quality of mountain biking and e-biking. Though many cyclists are skeptical of electronic pedal-assist bikes, e-biking can still be a viable workout option. In testing, e-bike use yielded comparable elevated heart rates in participants. The researchers say these results may encourage those with apprehension about intense exercise to pursue greater cardiovascular health.

PDBIO—Dr. Michael Stark’s Physiology and Developmental Biology lab recently completed a state-of-the-art two-photon microscope. A team of undergraduate students developed the custom design and assembled each of its several modules from thousands of pieces. PDBio is just one of the departments that are excited to use the new microscope for research that would be impossible otherwise. The microscope can target individual cells in living and active specimens thanks to a powerful infrared laser. Dr. Jordan Yorgason hopes to trace neural pathways with a new level of precision.

BEAN MUSEUM—Last fall the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum hosted three Experienceship programs. These events were open to the public and took participants (enthusiasts, amateurs, and students alike) out into the field. They learned more about entomology at Hobble Creek, edible plants on south campus hill, and birding at Antelope Island. Check out their website at for stories, fun photos from the activities, and information about future events.