John S.k. Kauwe, Biology
Project Justification and Overview
Successful enrollment in and completion of graduate programs requires a constellation of skills. Students must be prepared to plan and execute experiments, present their findings both verbally and in manuscript form and interact effectively with senior scientists in the field of their choice. In this MEG I will mentor four undergraduate students (Kevin Boehme, Lyndsay Staley, Kaitlin Bell and Mark Wadsworth) as they develop skills in study design, data analysis, manuscript preparation, presentation and networking while identifying genetic factors that protect individuals from Alzheimer’s disease.
Evaluation of Academic Objectives:
This MEG was proposed with specific objectives associated with a five phase mentoring plan.
In Phase 1 students in the MEG group will receive training in data management and analysis.
Phase 1 Benchmarks:
- Each student in the MEG group will prepare an ORCA proposal based on his or her training project.
- All three students in the MEG group submitted ORCA proposals.
In Phase 2 the students will evaluate their respective biomarker dataset(s) and design their studies.
Phase 2 Benchmarks:
- Participation in weekly MEG group meetings
- Leadership in the design of the study to be authored by the student
- Submission of ORCA peer reviews
- Submission of an ORCA grant proposal
Progress: Weekly meetings MEG group meetings were held throughout the year. Students successfully outlined study plans and drafted proposals for analysis. Students reviewed each other’s proposals and provided critical peer evaluations. All three of the four students in the MEG group submitted ORCA proposals. The ORCA proposals from Kevin and Lyndsay were funded.
In phase 3 students will execute their analysis plan, draft their manuscript and prepare a presentation for a scientific meeting (the meeting may vary by student as appropriate).
Phase 3 Benchmarks:
- Submission of an abstract for the appropriate scientific meeting
- Draft manuscript describing findings
Progress: All four students executed their analysis plans. All students have have co-authored published papers and an additional manuscript paper that is in preparation.
In phase 4 students will begin preparations to attend the scientific meeting and participate in the group discussion of their respective analyses.
Phase 4 Benchmarks:
- Acceptance of the abstract to the scientific meeting
- Successful presentation and participation in the scientific meeting
- Establish contact with at least one potential mentor outside of BYU
Progress: Lyndsay Staley, Kaitlyn Hoyt and Mark Wadsworth each had their abstracts accepted for posters presentation. The students had a very productive time at the meeting and each made multiple, personal connections with future mentors.
In phase 5 students will incorporate what they learned at the scientific meeting, revise their manuscripts and submit them to a peer-reviewed journal.
Phase 5 Benchmarks:
- Submission of manuscript for peer review
- Acceptance/Publication of a manuscript
Progress: Data analyzed during this grant period has resulted in three manuscripts; two are published or accepted and the other is in preparation.
Assessment of the Mentoring Environment:
The vast majority of the pre-established benchmarks for this training program were met. This presents a very positive assessment of the mentoring environment. I have solicited comments from my students for a qualitative assessment of the environment. The following are their unedited responses to my request that they send a “paragraph discussing what you learned over the past year and how (or if) the mentoring environment enriched your education”:
Kevin Boehme: “During my time here I have grown and developed as a research scientist, critical thinker, and member of a collaborative team. This lab has augmented my undergraduate education immensely and provides me a place to apply what I learn in the classroom to real world problems. Dr. Kauwe expects student who want to be part of the lab to actively participate. In my experience, this includes attending lab meetings, seeking out and writing available grants/scholarships, presenting talks/posters at conferences, forming and completing projects (usually through collaboration with other students, professors at BYU, or researchers at other universities) and writing up results in a manuscript. Attending lab meeting has been an important part of my experience in the lab. It is there where each member of the lab has the chance to explain their work and report on the progress of their project. In addition to these weekly lab meetings, my lab mates and I have had the chance to attend scientific conferences to present our research to our peers. These have been some of the most rewarding and fun experiences in the lab.
Since the beginning of my time in the lab I was encouraged to seek out and apply for all available grants, scholarships, and internships. This is a critical part of science and in accordance with its importance was a major part of our lab experience. I applied for two ORCA grants and was awarded one of them. The process of writing a grant was a great experience. It required a thorough understanding of the work flow for a given project. Completing the project has allowed me to better understand study designs, data analysis, and the process of manuscript writing and submission. In addition to providing a wonderfully constructive environment in the lab, Dr. Kauwe also sets us up for future growth by facilitating networking opportunities. Indeed, it has been my experience that a defining characteristic of Dr. Kauwe’s mentoring is to understand a student’s professional goals and then tailor their lab experience to help them get there. Often this takes the form of internships with collaborators in business and academia. I have been involved in a long and productive collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington that has benefited me greatly. Through it I have accomplished things that I believe will make a difference in Alzheimer disease research. I have also made strong connections with excellent scientists.
Early in my time in the lab I attended a “new members” meeting to discuss the basic type of research that goes on in the lab. During these meetings, Dr. Kauwe reiterated that as members of the church, we know that God is capable of guiding our steps, and he encouraged us to take advantage of that fact in our undergraduate studies and research.
By virtue of my membership in the lab, I have been blessed with opportunities which have stretched me and made me a better researcher.”
Lyndsay Staley: “I have had such an amazing, and helpful experience being in Dr. Kauwe’s lab. I have grown as a scientist, a student, an employee and my testimony has been strengthened knowing that I’m where I’m supposed to be, and developing myself in the way Heavenly Father wants me to. I have been given so many opportunities that I never would have been given as an undergraduate anywhere else. I feel like I have been able to get real experience in the field that I am studying so that I can know that this is right for me. The one on one help is so vital to my growth and I’m so grateful that Dr. Kauwe always makes the time to help me. ”
Mark Wadsworth: “I have benefited so much from the excellent mentoring environment in the Kauwe lab. Just in my regular classes, I know what the lab processes look like and how research progresses. This has improved my critical thinking skills and made me more comfortable with scientific processes. The skills I have learned from writing grants and helping with papers has improved my technical writing. Not only the practice of writing these documents, but the one on one advice from Dr. Kauwe and other members of the lab has taught me how to write a scientific paper.
Outside of regular school, my experience in the lab has prepared me to get highly competitive internship spots and participate in national research conferences. In addition to the preparation, the support and encouragement I received in the Kauwe lab actually gave me the push to apply for and participate in these conferences and internships. These experiences have shaped my college career and have given me an opportunity to jump into education and participate on a deeper level than I could have even imagined before I joined the Kauwe lab.”
Kaitlyn Bell: “I have grown and learned a lot being a member of the lab. I have been a co-author on 2 papers and and 3 others are in the process of being published (one first author), in relation to analyzing and identifying Alzheimer’s disease variants, both causal and protective. I have had one poster presentation at ASHG, where I learned about what it is like to present a poster and answer questions related to my research. While being in the lab, I have also had the opportunity to meet and talk to many people from around the scientific community. I have also benefited from being mentored by Dr. Kauwe in life and spiritual matters. I have gained much advice from our relationship. I believe I have learned more and benefited more from my relationship to Dr. Kauwe and being in the lab for my future family life and career, than I have in my classes and other aspects of being an undergraduate.”
Kevin Boehme: Kevin has presented posters and local and national conferences and is the co-author of two published manuscripts and three additional manuscripts that are under review. He received a half tuition scholarship award from the BYU Biology Department in recognition of his research accomplishments and was awarded and ORCA grant. He has applied for MD and MD/PhD programs.
Lyndsay Staley: Lyndsay is the co-author of a paper that was recently accepted for publication in PLoS Genetics. She was the first author and presenter of a poster at the American Society of Human Genetics Meetings. She has received two ORCA grants from BYU.
Mark Wadsworth: Mark is a co-author of a paper that was recently accepted for publication in PLoS Genetics and an additional paper that was published in BMC Bioinformatics. He was the first author and presenter of a posters at the American Society of Human Genetics Meeting and the BIOT meeting. He has submitted and ORCA proposal.
Kaitlyn Bell: Kaitlyn has coauthored two papers that are accepted and presented a poster at the American Society of Human Genetics Meetings. She has submitted an ORCA proposal.
Results/Findings of this Project:
Data generation and analysis associated with this project provided the following conclusions:
- Alzheimer’s disease mortality is familial and enriched pedigrees exist in the Utah Population Database
- Genetic variants in SAR1A and RAB10 contribute to protection from Alzheimer’s disease.
Funds from this MEG were used to fund salary for these undergraduates from Jan 2012 to present, to print posters and to fund their travel costs to the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting. The funds from this MEG have been completely spent.
This MEG has successfully provided students with training in analysis of data currently being generated in the study of human genetics, exposure to and interaction with other scientists in a professional setting, experience in the presentation of primary data at a conference, and experience in writing, submission, review, revision and publication of manuscripts. The awards, honors and academic products associated with this MEG illustrate both the excellence of the undergraduates that were part of this grant and the quality of the mentoring environment in the Kauwe lab.