What do you get when you cross rodent red blood cells with dimethyl sufloxide (DMSO)? For Logan Bonner, a Sophomore majoring in biological engineering at Penn State-Lehigh Valley, the answer is a ticket to the state capital to present your research to college students, faculty and State legislators.
Bonner was chosen to present his research, Stimulation of Red Blood Cell Differentiation In Vitro: Replication of a Classic Experiment Enhances Inquiry in the Undergraduate Laboratory, at Pennsylvania's Undergraduate Research at the Capitol (URC-PA) event to be held March 27.
“We were recreating and improving on an experiment by [famous virologist] Charlotte Friend to determine creating new protocol for mouse stem cell research,” said Bonner, “the main idea is to get students involved in science in open inquiry.” According to Wikipedia, Friend was the lead reserch scientist who discovered viral leukemia.
The URC-PA Conference allows Pennsylvania’s undergraduate student to showcase their research to key decision-makers in the Commonwealth in order to enlighten State legislators about important topics. Students present their research in a form of a poster.
Together with a team headed by Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Biology, they experimented on murine (mouse) stem cells, researching the stimulation of Leukemia cells by DMSO in the process of differentiation.
Although the experimentation merely recreated the results of Friend's former experiment, Bonner stated that its importance lies in the demonstration of “open ended inquiry of students in the classroom,” and establishing the protocol “to determine the exact function of DMSO.”
Bonner has been interested in experimentation and research even in elementary school where he had an “aha” moment while participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition. Tinkering around with robotics got him interested in engineering but, it wasn’t until High School when his love of biology entered into the equation.
Great teachers inspire and Bonner said, “I had a great teacher when I was a senior in AP Bio, she allowed me to do independent research in cell tissue culture.” At the time, his research subject was Hosta, a rather common plant.
When asked about his future plans, Bonner said, “Definitely doing bio research involving mushrooms.”
He currently works for a company foraging and selling mushrooms for culinary use. Bonner himself is somewhat a culinary aficionado with mushrooms. His specialty, “pot stickers” aside from adding mushrooms to everything he cooks including sushi.
“I love mushrooms. They are pretty amazing,” said Bonner, “the uses for them medicinally, as natural resources and for environmental sustainability are huge.”
While Bonner is introducing legislators to the process of engineering stem cell differentiation in mice, he will be setting the example for countless undergraduates who hope that legislators will continue to support, with their decisions and state dollars, undergraduate research in PA colleges and universities.