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Marquis Scholar Jamie Jarusiewicz ’06 (Sayreville, N.J.) has been learning about, examining, and analyzing the tiny parts of the pomacea bridgesii, more commonly known as the apple snail, as part of a research project that she began this summer.

“This is one of the first studies with a pretty oddball, primitive group of snails,” says Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology, who guided the first phase of her work. “They have not been researched heavily from a biological standpoint.”

Fried, an expert in parasitology, says that unlike the other snails he uses in his research, apple snails, often regarded as pests in tropical areas, have gills rather than modified lungs, and several other structural differences.

A biochemistry major, Jarusiewicz began her research in Kunkel Hall, examining and dissecting each snail and grinding up its shell and operculum — the tiny flap that closes when the snail hides in its shell.

Then she moved her work to Hugel Science Center, where she determined the amount of neutral lipids and phospholipids in each sample using densitometry and high-performance thin-layer chromatography (TLC), a procedure for examining closely related compounds.

Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, guided that phase of the research. Sherma, an expert in chromatography, has conducted joint research with Fried for more than two decades.

This fall, Jarusiewicz is continuing her TLC work, examining the free sterols, a type of primary lipid, that she has found in each sample and determining whether they’re composed only of cholesterol, the most commonly known type of free sterol.

“Other sterols could be present in the sample,” she says.

The collaborations have been made possible by Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

Fried says Jarusiewicz, who is primary author of a paper recently submitted to Journal of Planar Chromatography-Planar TLC, has contributed a great deal.

“She’s a gem,” he says. “She’s very analytical, she has a tremendous persistence, and she does dissections beautifully.”

Jarusiewicz says that while she never expected to conduct research on snails, “it’s really interesting and it’s given me a lot of experience.”

“I like the fact that we’re using chemical techniques on a biological system,” she adds, explaining that while she likely won’t study snails in her career, the exposure to both sides of her major is invaluable.

Jarusiewicz adds that both Fried and Sherma offer help when she needs it, but let her discover as much as she wants on her own.

“They give me a lot of independence,” she says. “They answer questions for me and lead me in the right direction, but I’m doing the work.”

A graduate of Sayreville War Memorial High School, Jarusiewicz is a member of the Lafayette Activities Forum’s comedy committee and Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection, and is a general chemistry tutor.

During the January interim session, she studied Gothic architecture in Belgium, Germany, and Holland through a special course taught by Lafayette faculty.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars like Jarusiewicz receive special financial aid and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded study-abroad course during January’s interim session between regular semesters. Marquis Scholars also participate in cultural activities in major cities and on campus, and mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at the last annual conference in April.

Categorized in: Academic News