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As she applies to graduate schools, biochemistry major Sharon Bandstra ’06 (Midland Park, N.J.) is finding that her extensive research in parasitology and publications in scientific journals are giving her an edge over other applicants. She also credits the research that led to six published articles with clarifying her decision to pursue an advanced degree in immunology and infectious diseases.

Bandstra began working as an EXCEL Scholar in the 2004 interim session with Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology, and JosephSherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry. A grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Senior Scientist Mentor Initiative allowed her to continue her EXCEL work into the summer of that year. Their joint research resulted in published articles in the Journal of Liquid Chromatography and Related Technologies and Acta Universitatis Cibiniensis, Seria F, Chemi.

In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, 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.

They have focused on examining the effect of parasitism on the lipids of different snail components, such as snail-conditioned water, feces, digestive gland-gonad complex, shell, and hemolymph (snail blood), in order to understand more about how that stage of the parasite’s life cycle functions in the snail. The researchers are now exploring the effects of intestinal parasite Echinostoma caproni infections on lipids in mouse feces. They are working to develop an effective diagnostic test to determine infection based on an analysis of a fecal sample for certain lipid levels.

Bandstra completed EXCEL research in the 2005 interim session with Fried and Sherma that resulted in a co-authored paper with Fried for Journal of Parasitology and two with Fried and Sherma for Journal of Planar Chromatography and Parasitology Research. Last May, she was chosen to present an oral paper at the 2005 American Chemical Society Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting at Rutgers University. Her presentation was part of the 2005 Student Award Symposium sponsored by the Chromatography Forum of the Delaware Valley.

“This award represented a significant honor for Sharon because it was open to applications from graduate as well as undergraduate students with major courses of study in the areas of separation science, medicine, chemistry, biochemistry, and engineering,” says Sherma.

Bandstra’s most recent publication with Fried and Sherma appeared in Journal of Parasitology. It presents the findings from their experiment exploring the effect of the age of the adult intestinal worm Echinostoma caproni on the development of the next stage of the life cycle.

“A microscopic stage called miracidia hatch from the eggs of the adult worms and are what infects snails,” explains Bandstra. “We found that the age of the adult worms, collected from mice between two weeks and eight weeks after infection, did not have any effect on the development and hatching of the miracidia. The maximum infectivity of miracidia in snails was obtained from eggs derived from worms collected from mice eight and nine weeks after infection.”

Bandstra is grateful for the opportunity to do such high-caliber research as an undergraduate student and believes the benefits will help her far into the future.

“This research experience has given me a chance to know what it is like to do my own research project, to read and write scientific papers, and to figure out what I want to do after Lafayette,” she says. “This experience was integral in my decision to go on to graduate school, and it also gave me an advantage over other applicants who did not have that opportunity in their undergraduate careers. I also learned how to train and work with other students in a lab setting. I appreciated working alongside professors who emanate their knowledge of and passion for science.”

Bandstra is a member of Sigma Xi, an international honor society for scientific and engineering research. She presented research last spring at the 81st annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. A recipient of the Neil D. Levin ’76 Public Service Fund, she observed a pathology lab at Saint Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., during a summer service internship. She studied abroad with 33 other Lafayette choral students through a January interim session course, singing soprano in the choir at various landmarks in Central and Eastern Europe while learning about languages and cultures. She is a member of the student chapter of the American Chemical Society, Lafayette Christian Fellowship, and Volleyball Club.

Included in Who’s Who in America and once featured on the Discovery Channel, Fried is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of parasitology, with three organisms named in his honor. His research has led to important advances in the effort to conquer tropical diseases caused by parasitic flatworms. He often includes Lafayette students in his groundbreaking research.

Author of more than 600 research papers, books, and reviews, Sherma has spent much of his career advancing the fields of pesticide analysis and chromatography. A recipient of the 1995 American Chemical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution sponsored by Research Corporation, Sherma has involved more than 150 different Lafayette students as coauthors for over 220 papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty students have been accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

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