Summer – Program

Health & Life Sciences Initiative
Summer Undergraduate Research Program

During the first week of the Summer Research Program, students will be provided with an introduction to their program track, and they will have the opportunity to get to know one-another and the faculty in the program.  Speakers will be brought in to provide current information about the work that is being done in the public health, life sciences, and allied health fields.  Field trips will be done to provide participants with an opportunity to see the work.   In addition, there will be focused sessions on research skills, designing poster presentations, and careers in the health and life science fields.   Students will learn about safe research practices relevant to the track that they have selected.

Track 1 – Bioscience – Search for the Cure

This track will look at how we study plants and stem cells in search of cures.  An emphasis is placed on hands-on experience to all students to get practice with a variety of lab techniques and equipment.  Students will select one area of research that they are interested in for further examination.

Material Covered

Critical Scientific Laboratory Skills and Basic Concepts of Scientific Investigation

The scientific method demands understanding of how to accurately investigate natural phenomena to support or disprove a scientific hypothesis. In order to succeed in today’s demanding biotechnological research environment basic laboratory skills are essential and scientists must be able to accurately reproduce all of their investigation. In this week of the Summer Health and Life Science Program at Eastern Connecticut State University students will be introduced to several vital laboratory

skills that will be useful throughout the remainder of the program and throughout there education and future scientific careers. The daily programs will consist of introductory information about a specific scientific skill or technique followed by hands‐on in lab experience using the methodology presented.

Topics will include:

  • Basic Laboratory safety
  • Accurate measurements of volume and mass using scientific methods
  • Scientific preparation of solutions and basic analysis
  • Use of standard laboratory instruments
  • Micro‐pipettes
  • Spectrophotometers
  • Modern Electrophoresis Techniques
  • 96 well plate readers

Research in Isolation of Antimicrobials from Natural Products

Plants are an important source of potentially useful novel chemical structures. Some of these structures show antimicrobial activity or serve as starting points to develop new chemotherapeutic agents. The use of medicinal plants dates back thousands of years but even today the screening of higher plants for new drugs is largely unexplored.

Considering the enormous potential of plants to serve as sources for antimicrobial drugs, many researchers systematically investigate phytochemicals as sources of new and potentially useful antibiotics. The goal of this research will be to investigate the roots, stems, flowers, or fruits of a number of “herbal remedy” plants by attempting to extract and purify the active medicinal compounds. Some basic laboratory skills will be required to complete this project and the students will learn basic extraction methods, techniques for purification of complex mixtures, and methods for spectral characterization of purified components.

Proposed study plants

  • Process the Bergamot fruit to obtain the active citrus oil
  • Process Cassia bark (Cinnamon Plant) to obtain the powdered bark
  • Horseradish root to obtain a blended powdered root
  • Steam distill Kava-Kava fruit to obtain the aromatic oils
  • Process Oregon grape roots for extraction
  • Process Arborvitae leaves to obtain Thuja oil

Determination of Antimicrobial Activity in Plant Extracts
This study is proposed to determine the anti-microbial activity and possible chemotherapeutic uses for a pharmaco-active from plant sources. The question we would like answers to is that “do any of the selected plant materials have anti-microbial activity? The objective is to determine if any of these plant extracts can kill any of our bacterial samples. It is expected that some of these pharmaco-active extracts from plants would show some degree of inhibitory activity.

It is expected that at the end of the session students will:

  • Master concepts in microbiology
  • Learn to describe the basic structure of bacteria
  • Perform and understand the importance of the gram’s staining techniques
  • Learn how to handle and grow bacteria in various cultures
  • Will be introduced to techniques in establishment and maintenance of cell culture
  • Learn about the importance of hand washing
  • Learn how to enumerate bacteria cells in suspension and on semi-solid matrix
  • Learn about development of antimicrobial resistance and how not use antibiotics
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various antibiotics, disinfectants, and antiseptics on bacteria cultures

Molecular Identification of Nervous System Progenitors
We used to think that once your brain was fully formed that it was “hardwired”, meaning that if one were to undergo a traumatic brain injury or stroke, brain cells would die and be lost forever. Now it’s known that there are discrete regions within the adult nervous system where new neurons are produced. New neurons are thought to be produced from stem and progenitor cells, however, the mechanisms that drive neurogenesis are not fully understood. One of the biggest challenges in discovering how neurogenesis occurs, is a common problem in stem cell biology, that is, a lack of markers that can identify progenitors capable of producing the cell types of interest.

This project will use molecular methods to identify candidate progenitors in the nervous system. Each day throughout this week will consist of classroom sessions regarding the specific techniques and stem cell biology, and include hands-on experience performing the actual experiments in the lab.

Students in this session will gain a more in depth understanding of the different types of stem cells, their biology and applications, and perform hands-on research gaining valuable skills in molecular and cellular techniques, while applying cutting-edge technology.

Classroom and laboratory topics will include:

  • Basic stem cell biology, emphasizing the nervous system
  • The different types of stem cells and their applications
  • Molecular analyses of stem and progenitor cells
  • Immunohistochemistry –to find cells expressing proteins that identify progenitors
  • Laser-scanning confocal microscopy –using triple-labeled fluorescence
  • Processing of digital images
  • Production of a high quality image for presentation


With the guidance of faculty, students will have the opportunity to select one area of research that is of interest to them to present in a poster presentation.  This will allow them to explain the material to others, to explore the area in a little more depth, and to learn how to do a poster presentation (a common form of research presentation).


Dr. Groth
Dr. Amy Groth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Eastern Connecticut State University.  She earned her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University, and conducted postdoctoral research in Medical Genetics at the University of Washington, Seattle and in Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Currently she is using the worm model organism, C. elegans. to study transcriptional networks that are important for human disease and development.  Dr. Groth has taught courses in genetics, biotechnology, cancer biology, molecular biology and molecular genetics.

Dr. Nsiah
Dr. Yaw Nsiah’s research is directed towards developing antimicrobial agents by focusing my attention on understanding microbial pathogenesis in human viral diseases and the host-virus interactions leading to the establishment and maintenance of a specific disease. Specifically, my laboratory has been interested in elucidating the factors or conditions influencing the initiation, establishment and maintenance of human herpes simplex virus latent infection and its (virus) subsequent reactivation under the appropriate conditions. My laboratory is also involved in the evaluation of newly synthesized derivatives of tetracycline to determine their efficacy in the control of microbial agents. Additionally toxicity studies and cellular absorption properties of newly synthesized antiviral agents is also being undertaking in my laboratory. Current ongoing research in my laboratory involves the elucidation of pharmacoactive anti-infectives from tropical plants. My research is evaluating some selected locally known herbal plants for their potential activity to control inflammation and viral infections. Additionally I am also evaluating organically synthesized molecules for their antiviral and antimicrobial activity. Ultimately, my strategy is to use our understanding of the virus-host interaction to develop an effective antiviral therapy (active drug or vaccine therapy) to combat the spread of herpes simplex virus infection.

Dr. Koza
Dr. Darrell Koza is a professor of chemistry and maintains the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility at Eastern Connecticut State University. He holds a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Rhode Island and did his post-graduate work at Tufts University Medical School. His research interests include the isolation and structure elucidation of novel anti-microbial and anti-viral compounds as well as total synthesis of complex molecules using contemporary synthetic methodologies.

Dr. Murdoch
Dr. Barbara Murdoch’s my first job in science was in a research lab studying stem cells. I have been fascinated by stem cells (and research) ever since! My training in stem cell biology was initiated in Toronto, ON –where stem cells were first discovered – in addition to performing my postdoctoral research at Yale University. My expertise in stem cells comes from a variety of tissues including the blood, the neural crest and the nervous system. My research interests currently lie in i) nervous system development and neurogenesis -how to produce new neurons; and in ii) incorporating undergraduate students into research programs to excite the next generation of researchers!

Track 2 – Physical Health and Epidemiology

This track will examine the role of physical health in public health and disease prevention through the exploration of measurement and exercise testing protocols, studying nutrition, and exploring the interaction of nutrition exercise and health.  In addition, students will learn the basics of geographic information systems (GIS) and the utility of GIS in studying the health of a community.  Students will help gather data to analyze health issues in the Willimantic area.

Material Covered

Combining Data Acquisition and GIS to Analyze Patterns Related to Public Health

Summary of Session: Geographic information systems (GIS) have been used in a variety of scientific and environmental studies, which include many applications within the health and life sciences. The utility of GIS for health applications begins with data acquisition, which consists of proper data collection, compilation, storage, retrieval, and manipulation to create spatial data. The primary goal of GIS is to use advanced technology to build a model that enables us to recognize, identify, and interpret geographic patterns. The model requires us to think spatially; we must use our knowledge to conduct an analysis and interpret relationships of location to specific spatial properties. In this session, students will become familiar with, and explore, online sites that make health content available to the public, which will then be incorporated and analyzed in a GIS. The techniques shown here, exemplify how GIS can assist in the prevention of illness and assist in future health policies.

Student outcomes include:

  • Understand how GIS is integrated across all disciplines (geography, computer science, social science, planning, engineering, etc.) and offers the ability to analyze issues spatially.
  • Understand “spatial” data.
  • Be able to identify how and why many health informatics systems are manual and/or nonintegrated.
  • Become familiar with online sites that make health content available to the public, which can assist in prevention of illness and in creation of future health policies
  • Understand how to download and prepare spatial and tabular data.
  • Understand the types of maps available and their purposes.
  • Obtain and create spatial data from the Census Bureau.
  • Learn to geocode addresses in ArcGIS
  • Experiment with ModelBuilder
  • Experiment with creating maps for health studies using ArcGIS®
  • Use skills obtained in previous exercises to collect data and map appropriately for Willimantic.

Physical Activity Epidemiology and Health

Provide an introduction to participants about physical activity and its relation to health and disease prevention. Participants will have opportunities to learn the measurement and assessment of exercise testing protocols and learn the principles of Exercise as Medicine.

By the end of this program students will know the:

  • role of physical activity in public health and disease prevention
  • health-related physical fitness components
  • metabolic syndrome
  • risk factors and stratification of physical inactivity and chronic diseases
  • exercise as medicine principles
  • physical activity guidelines
  • research procedures in physical activity epidemiology
  • research skills in physical activity epidemiology
  • career prospective in health and exercise sciences

Students will be able to apply the knowledge and complete research projects.

Role of Nutrition in Health

An understanding of nutrition is fundamental to any study of physical health and to an understanding of a healthy community.  Nutrition covers the types of nutrients our body needs, how our body uses these nutrients, how nutrition affects our health, and how our nutrition needs change at different stages of life.

By the end of the program, students will have an understanding of:

  • The role of nutrition in our life
  • How to design a healthy diet
  • Functions of carbohydrates, macronutrients, and fiber.
  • Essential energy nutrients, types of lipids, healthy and unhealthy fats.
  • Role of proteins in our diet
  • Fluid and electrolyte balance
  • Bone health
  • Body weight – underweight, overweight, and obesity, social factors, and calculating weight.
  • Food safety and hygiene
  • Nutrition through the lifecycle


Students in this track will go out into the community and collect data as part of a general study of the health of the community.  This will provide an opportunity for students to integrate what they learned in the areas of physical health, nutrition, and geographic analysis of the community.  Students will select one portion of the study that interests them as part of their final poster presentation session.


Dr. Lee
Dr. Anita N. Lee is an Associate Professor in Health and Physical Education at Eastern Connecticut State University. Her research interests are in measurement and evaluation of physical activity and exercise science, research methods and design in exercise science, and physical activity and public health. Dr. Lee’s peer-reviewed scholarly presentations frequently feature at the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) national convention, Eastern District AAHPERD (EDA) convention, Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CTAHPERD) conference, and the National Coaching Conference (NCC) hosted by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). She is also an active academic journal reviewer of the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (JOPERD), Journal of Exercise and Sport Fitness, Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, Sport Exercise, and Performance Psychology, and Journal of Coaching Education.

Dr. Lee served as the Chair of Research Committee at EDA, Chair of the Measurement and Evaluation Council at the American Association of Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR), and Portfolio Review Coordinator of the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE). She is an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS), Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS), and certified Group Exercise Leader (GEL). Dr. Lee earned the Bachelor of Arts (Honor) in Physical Education and Recreation Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, Master of Science in Recreation Management and Doctor of Physical Education at Springfield College, Massachusetts.

Dr. Lee has coached collegiate swimming for eight years, first at Springfield College for the men’s and women’s team, then at Plymouth State University, where she assist the teams to many successful seasons. Dr. Lee is a life member of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA). She is also an American Red Cross certified Lifeguard Instructor Trainer, Water Safety Instructor Trainer, CPR/AED for Professional Rescuer and First Aid Instructor. Prior to her graduate studies, Dr. Lee was a competitive swimmer and triathlete in Hong Kong, a member of the Hong Kong National Junior Triathlon Squad, two time delegate to the Asian Triathlon Championships, and qualified for the World Triathlon Championships in 1991. She was also the finalists of Hong Kong National Swimming Championships and Hong Kong Intercollege Swimming Championship for multiple times.

Dr. Metcalf
Dr. Meredith Metcalf has a diverse background in the natural sciences with degrees in Geology and Geophysics and Natural Resources and the Environment, both of which are from the University of Connecticut and grounded in the area of hydrogeology. Her research interests in mapping bedrock and analyzing ground water sustainability, ground water quality, and ground water flow patterns in fractured rock have provided her with a strong background in geographic information systems. She joined the Department of Environmental Earth Science in the Fall of 2011 and has taught Geographic Information Systems, Advanced Geographic Information Systems, and GIS Applications in Environmental Science. Her diverse background is also observed in her teaching as she has taught courses in the disciplines of Geology, Environmental Engineering, Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Computer Science.

Mr. Massicotte
Mr. Caelum Massicotte teaches nutrition at Manchester Community College and works as an advocate for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles.  He holds an M.S. in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.  Mr. Massicotte coordinates lectures, wellness fairs, community outreach, and cooking programs for the community.  He has also worked as a Chef and a Yoga Instructor.

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