The Undergraduate Research Office wasformally established on campus in 2003, butDIETETICS MAJOR VERONICA SMITH, ’06 (LEFT), HASMASTERED BIOLOGY, CHEMISTRY, AND ANATOMYCOURSES SO SHE CAN USE NUTRITION TO HELP HERFUTURE CLIENTS IMPROVE THEIR HEALTH. TINACOLAIZZO-ANAS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF DIETETICSAND NUTRITION, IS STUDYING FACTORS LINKINGOBESITY, CANCER, AND DIET.But she wasn’t confident about herabilities; at first, she thought the programrequired too much science for her to succeed.Course requirements include biology,chemistry, anatomy, and statistics inaddition to courses in nutrition andsupervised clinical practice. Nonetheless,she decided to pursue the disciplinebecause she felt called to it. Today, she’smaintaining a grade point average of 3.8.Tina Colaizzo-Anas, assistant professorof dietetics and nutrition, interviewedSmith for admission into the coordinateddietetics program. Graduates of this programcan take the exam to become a registereddietitian, the field’s most prestigiouscertification.Colaizzo-Anas is a registered dietitianwho has extensive experience developingdisease-specific nutrition plans forpatients in intensive care. Her interest inthe link between diet and cancer led herto study obesity, because obesity is relatedto increased incidences of certain cancers.She encouraged Smith to apply for anUndergraduate Research Fellowship in2004 (see sidebar) so they could conductresearch together.“It’s important for dietitians tounderstand scientific research,” saidColaizzo-Anas, “because they rely onresearch to design nutrition therapies forindividual patients. And the easiest wayto understand research concepts is to doresearch yourself.”“I didn’t have a clue about researchbefore working with Tina,” said Smith.PHOTOGRAPH BY BRUCE A. FOXPHOTOGRAPH BY TOM WOLF“BECAUSE THE CLASSROOM JUST ISN’T ENOUGH,”SAID AMY MCMILLAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOROF BIOLOGY, EXPLAINING WHY RESEARCH IS SOIMPORTANT TO UNDERGRADUATES. THROUGHFIELD AND LAB RESEARCH, KEN BRAUN, ’05, STUDIEDTHE DNA OF LOONS.But with Colaizzo-Anas, Smith designedthe project’s methodology. They investigatedsome of the questions of why somany people are unable to lose weightdespite sincere efforts. Smith focusedspecifically on determining if overweightwomen knew how many calories theyshould consume daily to lose one pounda week. She also asked participants toestimate portion size.The study’s methodology consideredmany variables besides weight, age, andgender, such as health, menstrual cycles,and “resting energy expenditure” orREE—how many calories a person consumeswhen at rest or sedentary. Smithpre-screened participants, interviewedthem, and used a calorimeter to determineindividual REE.“I gained a lot of confidence by workingwith Tina,” said Smith. “And youhave to understand research becausethere’s so much conflicting informationabout what foods are good for you.”Smith also discovered she has a giftfor determining her patients’ needsthrough careful questioning. “Peoplehave different layers of knowledge, andknowing how to pull information out ofpeople is critical when you want to helpthem get better and stay better,” she said.The initial findings were paradoxical:People generally overestimate the numberof calories they need to eliminatefrom their diets in order to lose weight,but they routinely underestimate thenumber of calories they actually consume.The final results will be submittedfor publication to the Journal of theAmerican Dietetics Association.Hunter Tracks DNA MarkersKen Braun, ’05, spent much of his senioryear as a biology major in the “loon lab.”Ironically, what landed Braun in the lab ishis love of the outdoors, a love that beganwhen he started hunting at 12. Eventuallyhe hopes to become a wildlife biologist,maybe specializing in field managementof large predators.For now, though, his work is withDNA samples drawn from loons. Underthe guidance of Assistant Professor AmyMcMillan, he has been looking for agenetic marker differentiating the commonloons of eastern North America fromtheir West Coast cousins.“Evolution is all about genetics,” saidMcMillan, an evolutionary biologist.Understanding loon genetics is a way toread the history of loons and relatedloons within the species. One ofMcMillan’s research objectives is to beable to identify where a specific loonreturns annually to breed. That knowledgewill help wildlife biologists understandpuzzling health and mortalityissues among this fascinating but vulnerablespecies.For his piece of the puzzle, Brauntried to find a distinguishing geneticmarker by using AFLP genotyping. AFLPstands for “amplified fragment lengthpolymorphism”; it’s a way of analyzingDNA that enables the researcher to lookfor genetic markers on a section of DNA.Braun pointed to small, dark shadows—geneticmarkers—at certain placesalong parallel green lines on a computermonitor. He had hoped to find onemarker consistently absent or presentamong the birds from one of the twocoasts, so they could be distinguished.A Leader inUndergraduate Researchmany undergraduate research activities existedlong before then. For example, the annualStudent Research and Creativity Celebration,which showcases students’ original work, wasfirst held in 1999. Summer research fellowshipshave been awarded to students since 2000. And faculty have been mentoringundergraduates conducting research, scholarly, and creative activities for decades. Justask Jill Singer—a 1979 Buffalo State alum. “My experience doing research as anundergraduate transformed my education,” she said. “That’s why I became such anadvocate for it.”Singer’s advocacy for expanding undergraduate researchopportunities for Buffalo State students began when she joinedthe faculty in 1986. Besides incorporating research into herown classes, she has mentored more than 30 students inundergraduate research projects, often addressing localenvironmental problems. In the early 1990s, Singer becameinvolved in the national movement to provide undergraduate research opportunities.She became active in the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), whose institutionaland individual members believe that students learn best when engaged in theprocess of discovery, making research one of the most effective ways of teaching.Singer served as CUR’s president in 2003–2004, bringing her experience at BuffaloState to a national audience. Today, the college serves as a model for institutionalizingundergraduate research, not only in the natural and social sciences, but also in thearts and humanities.Singer, who also served as a program director in the National Science FoundationDivision of Undergraduate Education in Washington, D.C., from 2001 to 2003, wasappointed director of the Undergraduate Research Office upon its creation. But despiteher administrative work and her teaching (she is a professor in the Earth Sciences andScience Education Department), she continues to mentor undergraduate researchersfor the enormous satisfaction of seeing students learn, gain confidence, and solvechallenging problems.JILL SINGER, PH.D., DIRECTOR,UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH OFFICE1819
20GARY JONES, INTERIM DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF THEPROFESSIONS AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGY, HELPS JILL ODROBINA, ’05,SET UP DIAGNOSTIC EQUIPMENT. THE RESEARCHCONDUCTED BY ODROBINA AND JONES DEMON-STRATED THAT RESULTS ARE ONLY AS RELIABLE AS THEINSTRUMENTS USED TO MEASURE THEM.“I’ve gained a ton of knowledge,” hesaid. “For one thing, I found out I have thepatience to do lab work.” While as of thiswriting he had not found the marker hesought, he’s pleased that he has been able toadapt an AFLP protocol for upcoming students.“Somebody else will benefit fromwhat I learned about running gels,” he said,referring to one process of translating rawDNA into data scientists can analyze.“Doing science takes years,” saidMcMillan. “But a student can usuallyfind out enough to develop a meaningfulpresentation in one or two semesters.”Some students publish their findings,often as coauthors with their facultymentors. Others turn their work intothe focus of their graduate studies.Research, in McMillan’s experience,is especially valuable for students whootherwise struggle to connect textbookinformation with the physical worldaround them. “When a student is partof trapping loons so scientists can drawblood samples,” she said, “they understandwhat’s going on when they useblood as a DNA source in the lab.”Braun’s lab experience gave him abehind-the-scenes understanding of theinner workings of research, from followingprecise steps in rigid sequences tokeeping copious, detailed notes of eachstep. Still, he’s ready for the great outdoorsagain: he’s looking forward toworking for the Loon PreservationCommittee, studying loons on LakeUmbagog in Maine.Undergraduate Sounds an Alarm“I found it amazing to discover knowledgethat I didn’t have...that nobody has,” saidJill Odrobina, ’05. “I never imaginedmyself doing this back in high school.”Back then, Odrobina hadn’t evenconsidered becoming a speech-languagepathologist. She wanted to work withpeople, and an aptitude test suggestedshe consider the field.Gary Jones, associate professor ofspeech-language pathology and Odrobina’smentor, said that students who doresearch learn how to solve problems.“Doing research forces you to thinksomething through,” he said. “Studentslearn how to do a research project—definethe goals, state the problem, develop amethodology, collect the data, analyzethe results, and present the findings.”Odrobina recruited 46 college studentsbetween the ages of 18 and 40 for herstudy. She used two different measurementsystems to compare their evaluationof the same voices making the samesound. Both systems are used as diagnostictools by speech-language pathologists.The first research objective was toupdate the characteristics of normalspeech, because the norms in use arebecoming outdated. The second objectivewas to compare the measurementsobtained by the two different systems.“The findings were scary,” saidOdrobina. “The devices didn’t give thesame results, even though they were supposedto be evaluating the exact samePHOTOGRAPH BY TOM WOLFthing.” When she presented her findings atthe New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association convention in April,speech-language pathologists who use theequipment were concerned. If further investigationbears out the initial findings, theimplications for speech-language cliniciansare significant, because the devices in questionhelp diagnose not only speech problemsbut also underlying physical problemssuch as growths on the vocal cords.The experience of explaining newinformation to her senior colleaguesincreased Odrobina’s self-confidenceenormously. “Everybody was interested,”said Odrobina, “and I learned about newtherapies and adaptive technologies.” Sheplans to pursue her research as part of hermaster’s degree.KNOWLEDGE IS POWER only ifthe knowledge is reliable. As the globaleconomy continues to develop, those whocan pan good information from the nonstopflow of available information will becomemore and more influential. Professors are thescholars, scientists, and artists who createnew knowledge, interpret old knowledge inthe light of new information, and passthose skills on to their students. Studentswho have been initiated into the rites ofresearch—framing a question, assessingavailable data, and finding the path thatleads to new facts—will own the future. To hear students discuss their research, visitwww.buffalostate.edu/podcasts.xml.