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Carroll students showcase impressive research at SURF

Carroll SURF 2023
Posted at 6:07 PM, Apr 28, 2023

HELENA — On Friday, hundreds of people gathered at Carroll College for their Student Undergraduate Research Festival, or SURF, where students showcased more than 120 presentations on their work.

At Carroll, students even in their first few years are able to participate in undergraduate research projects. The subjects of those research projects are all quite impressive, with this year’s presentations ranging from the effects of antidepressants on metabolic rates to the role of REM sleep on creativity, and even looking at if it could be possible to build solar panels from minerals found on the surface of Mars.

Carroll College SURF

Biology major Eden Houske, along with Marrin Chapman and Kiki Bourekis, presented “Time Course of Metabolic Shifts in Cartilage Explants Exposed to Short-Term Simulated Microgravity.”

“So for SURF this year we looked at the effects of microgravity on articular cartilage and we wanted to see what pathways are being altered in those cells,” Houske told MTN. “The reason why this is important is because astronauts we’re sending them up into space and they’re coming back and suffering from joint disease.”

Biology major Eden Houske
Carroll College Biology major Eden Houske

Houske told MTN she even got to work with NASA on her research with Dr. Hahn.

“For SURF this year we looked at the effects of microgravity on articular cartilage and we wanted to see what pathways are being altered in those cells,” explained Houske. “So the reason why this is important is because astronauts, we’re sending them up into space and they’re coming back and suffering from joint disease.”

The research Houske assisted with is timely as humanity looks to do further space travel with the Artemis program returning to the moon and the eventual Mars missions.

“There’s minimal research that shows these negative effects on the joints,” Howske said. “So even at a small institution like Carroll, we’re helping bring light to this so hopefully NASA can see there are negative effects here and work to improve the health of their astronauts post spaceflight.”

Matt Cortner

The TV show “The Last of Us” (2023) and the video game it was based on have recently piqued the public interred in the potential issues of fungal infections in animals. In the popular HBO series and game, humans are taken over by a fungus.

While it’s no zombie apocalypse, Biochemistry major Matt Cortner has been studying fungal infections in frogs. Specifically, the disease chytridiomycosis which is affecting amphibians worldwide.

“We don’t know a lot about this disease and so its been really cool to look at how are things such as the water quality, or the bacteria that are present in the environment incorporating and interacting with the immune defenses of a frog,” Cortner told MTN.

Cortner said he had never conducted field research until working on this project.

“It was really cool to see how are these things we’re testing in the lab apply to things outside this little box we’re essentially confining ourselves to,” explained Cortner.

Carroll College SURF

Both Cortner and Houske are looking to go to medical school after they graduate from Carroll. The two seniors told MTN having the opportunity to participate in these types of undergraduate research throughout most of their time in college has played a big role in the future careers they’re pursuing.

“I think research has been one of the most influential parts of my undergraduate degree experience,” Cortner said. “Really being able to think critically and think for yourself is something I think everybody needs to have in their lives, and as an aspiring physician I think that a really big part of being able to diagnose your patient, come up with the right appropriate treatment plan.”

Carroll College students Eden Houske and Matt Cortner
Carroll College students Eden Houske and Matt Cortner

Houske echoed the sentiment, “I never saw myself initially getting involved in research, but this is the one opportunity that I would not trade.”

Research is ultimately an investment, much like an education. What is learned is documented and shared to hopefully improve people’s lives or find better understanding, all in an effort to make a brighter tomorrow.