Duquesne Students to Share Their Research in Harrisburg

Two Duquesne students will be among the university students statewide presenting their research in the state Capitol on Tuesday, March 3.

“Undergraduate Research at the Capitol-Pennsylvania gives our students and faculty a chance to share their work and its potential impact with state legislators, policymakers and peer research institutions across Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Alan W. Seadler, associate academic vice president for research and technology.

Representing Duquesne are:

  • Benjamin Andrick in the Mylan School of Pharmacy, advised by Dr. Wilson Meng, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and principal investigator
  • Shelby Boord, biology (pre-medicine) major with a minor in Women and Gender Studies, advised by Dr. Sarah Woodley, associate professor of biological sciences.
Ben Andrick

Andrick’s research hypothesizes that the safety and efficacy of biologically similar compounds used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could have very different results in individual patients, given the patient’s medical history of infections, particularly the flu.

His work hypothesizes that:

  • An RA patient’s immune system can treat the biologically based compounds intended to help them as invaders, neutralizing any positive impact.
  • Three prominent immune genotypes in RA patients, which respond to similar amino acid sequences in the flu virus and the helpful compound, could react in a way that would block the compound’s positive effects.

A matrix could be used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help determine individual patient risk, clinical and economic outcomes. Besides Meng, pharmacy faculty members Drs. Lauren O’Donnell, Khalid Kamal and Pam Koerner and undergraduate Brianna Cauley also contributed to this work.

Shelby Boord

Boord’s work supports the hypothesis that environmental stressors influence amphibian susceptibility to infection, based on results from chronic exposure to corticosterone, a stress hormone, after treating salamanders with either the hormone or oil before exposing them to a fungal pathogen. All of the exposed animals became infected, but those treated with the hormone had a greater abundance of harmful zoospores.

Because of this new evidence relating stress hormones with infection rates, efforts should be made to minimize amphibians’ exposure to environmental stressors to bolster their disease resistance. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes the decline in amphibians may be more severe than previously realized. With more than 41 percent of all amphibians at risk of extinction, they are the most threatened vertebrate group assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Besides Woodley, doctoral student Chris Fonner and Shreya Patel, who received her undergraduate degree in 2014, contributed to the experiment.

Another research presentation opportunity arrives on campus with the Thursday, April 9, Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium. Submissions are due on Wednesday, March 11.