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Arianna Kahler-Quesada in lab

Science students win Fulbright fellowships

By Srila Nayak

Arianna Kahler-Quesada, senior in Honors Biochemistry and Biophysics

The College of Science is thrilled to announce that three of our students and alumni have received prestigious Fulbright Awards for the 2017-2018 academic year. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright is the largest U.S. international exchange program, offering opportunity for students, scholars and professionals.

The highly competitive Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study, research and teaching projects. More than 11,000 applicants compete for approximately 1,800 awards each year.

“Congratulations to these extraordinary science students,” said Sastry G. Pantula, Dean of the College of Science. “I am so proud of their accomplishments and wish them much success on these global academic and research experiences.

“These transformative experiences are so important for our mission to advance science and build global leaders for a healthy people, living on a healthy planet, in a healthy economy,” adds Pantula. “These opportunities are instrumental in developing scientists who will not only be able to understand the world’s most pressing problems, but will also be able to foster international understanding, an increasingly vital skill in our society. Also, they bring visibility to our outstanding programs.”

Overall, six students and alumni from Oregon State University were selected for Fulbright Scholarship this year.

Biochemistry and biophysics alumna Lynda Bradley (’15), biochemistry and biophysics senior Arianna Kahler-Quesada and integrative biology doctoral student Ian Morelan have been selected for the Fulbright scholarship. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

A zeal for infectious disease research

Lynda Bradley joined the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a post-baccalaureate IRTA (Intramural Research Training Award) fellow after graduating from Oregon State in 2015 with an Honors B.S. in biochemistry and biophysics.

Lynda Bradley with samples in lab

Biochemistry and biophysics alumna Lynda Bradley (’15)

Through shadowing the NIH infectious disease clinical team during clinical rounds and seminars, Bradley discovered her passion for infectious disease research and the public health environment.

Her Fulbright scholarship will take her to South Africa where she will collaborate with Dr. Alexander Pym at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV on a project to characterize mutations of antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB) and work towards finding a combination of antibiotics to inhibit the strains’ growth.

Bradley is keenly interested in both local and international infectious disease research, particularly in investigating what causes bacterial infection to turn chronic, even lethal. She is drawn to research in South Africa because of the high incidence of HIV (20%) in the population which leads to outbreaks of various diseases, notably TB.

“In fact upwards of one-third of the global co-infections of HIV and TB occur in South Africa. Perhaps worst of all, many of these cases involve antibiotic-resistant TB,” explained Bradley.

Bradley started out as a Chemical, Biological and Environmental engineering major before a Johnson internship landed her in a biofuels production laboratory, where she learned “the basics of sterile technique and culturing bacteria and yeast.”

“My time in the lab steered me towards science and biochemistry and biophysics,” said Bradley.

With the help of various undergraduate fellowships, Bradley pursued research on healthy aging in the lab of Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics Viviana Perez.

Bradley and a team of researchers, led by Perez, recently published the results of their important discovery. They found that a compound called rapamycin has unusual properties that may help slow aging and a wide variety of degenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s. The paper, which garnered quite a bit of attention for its importance in addressing issues related to aging and mental and physical decline, was published in Aging Cell in April this year.

Bradley received both a KARE (Knowledge Advancement Research Experience) award and a CURE (Cripps Undergraduate Research Experience) summer fellowship to support her research in Perez’s lab. Both research programs are supported by philanthropic gifts.

“Viviana helped me sort through what kind of research I would be interested in,” remarked Bradley, who would be applying to Ph.D. programs next year after she returns from South Africa and aspires to have a career in public health and biological research.

A native of Ammon, Idaho, Bradley attributes her success and her zeal for research to her science teaches and mentors. She credits educators, such as chemistry instructors Christine Pastorek, Richard Nafshun—in whose class she got her first ‘A” as an undergraduate—and biochemistry lecturer Indira Rajagopal for getting her excited about science and making her aware of her potential.

“There were people who went above and beyond to give me what I needed to succeed,” observed Bradley.

At the heart of her journey as a scientist and a Fulbright scholar lies a personal tragedy. When she was 14, Bradley lost her father to brain cancer. She cherishes the principles her father, an OSU engineering alumnus and a nuclear scientist, stood for and continues to be inspired by his example and vision.

“My father was one of the smartest people I know and incredibly compassionate. There are two things he taught me that I always carry with me: Never be ignorant and be willing to try all types of things in the world.”

As a Fulbright finalist poised to enter the global arena to exchange ideas and find solutions to international health concerns, Bradley has found a fitting way to honor her father’s ideals.

Doing it all: From music and dancing to Fulbright finalist

Arianna Kahler-Quesada, a graduating senior in Honors Biochemistry and Biophysics, was selected for the Sydel grant, a charitable contribution made to the organization that administers the Fulbright.

Arianna Kahler-Quesada hiking on hillside

biochemistry and biophysics senior Arianna Kahler-Quesada

This award is only the latest in Arianna’s string of accomplishments at OSU. She received Honorable Mention as an OSU nominee for the national Barry M. Goldwater scholarship. Arianna is also an OSU Presidential Scholar, winner of the American Chemical Society’s International Research Fellowship which took her to Perugia, Italy, for research in green chemistry last summer and a recipient of the prestigious University Honors College Wiesner Award for undergraduate women in science.

Arianna will work with Dr. Christian Toso at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, to investigate the role of obesity in the growth of liver cancer. Dr. Toso’s lab focuses on liver surgery and transplant risk factors, as well as various types of cancer regrowth.

Her research in Geneva, Arianna believes, will teach her a great deal about healthcare research and the medical profession as she aspires to study medicine upon her return to the United States. Her cherished dream is to work in underserved and troubled areas as a part of the Doctors Without Borders medical team.

Arianna has done extensive research on kidney disease, alcoholism and bone health in the skeletal biology lab run by Dr. Russell Turner and Dr. Urszula Iwaniec. Her research in Geneva will add yet another rich dimension to her research experiences.

“After working for three years in a skeletal biology lab at OSU, I am eager to expand my work in medical research, especially on a project as pressing and relevant as understanding liver cancer,” said Arianna.

“My contribution to this project will be aided by my experience working with mouse models, micro CT machines and tissue analysis, giving me a new perspective on this investigation.”

If Arianna has learned anything from her research experience, it is that science takes a lot of patience and dedication. She has sat through many hours of computer-aided analysis of bone tissue and painstakingly sliced mice bones into tiny slivers for further study.

"One may think there are a lot of eureka moments in research. But the reality is different," observed Arianna. "It just take a a lot of planning, a lot of work, and teaches you that there are no short cuts in science."

Her mature and thoughtful approach to science is serving her well in Turner and Iwaniec's graduate-level bone physiology class, where Arianna is learning how to write a scientific paper on bones research. She anticipates the experience will help her turn her thesis into a publication.

Adding yet another feather to her cap, Arianna has co-authored a paper in the journal Green Chemistry, which reports on research that she conducted in the Universitá di Perugia’s green synthetic organic chemistry laboratory.

Arianna says she is fortunate to have mentors and teachers such as her lab PIs Turner and Iwaniec, as well as biochemistry faculty, Kevin Ahern and Indira Rajagopal “who have exposed me to lots of different things and opened many doors in addition to research.”

Born into a Costa Rican family, Arianna is deeply attached to her Latin American roots and culture, and enjoys mentoring minority science students at OSU through the LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) program and OSU STEM Leaders, a program designed to increase the diversity and success of students in STEM fields at OSU.

In addition to her stellar academic career, Arianna has found time to play the violin in the OSU symphony orchestra and the flute in the chamber orchestra. She is a competitive ballroom dancer and performs the waltz, tango and cha cha in various dance competitions around Oregon.

“People ask me how I manage my time,” smiles Arianna. “I honestly don’t know. Things just work out.”

Microbial Research in Norway

Ian Morelan is a current Ph.D. student in the Department of integrative Biology. He will work in collaboration with Dr. Ingrid Bakke at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim to evaluate the feasibility of a new approach to create stable microbial communities that will outcompete pathogens in Norwegian aquaculture systems.

Ian Morelan working equipment in lab

integrative biology doctoral student Ian Morelan

Morelan, who graduated from the University of California, Davis, has also been awarded the OSU Provost Distinguished Graduate Student Scholarship, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology under the guidance of Associate Professor of Integrative Biology Dee Denver.

Morelan’s project has the potential to contribute to the efficiency and sustainability of the multi-billion-dollar aquaculture industry in Norway by finding methods for disease management and minimize pathogen load in land-based aquaculture systems.

He will employ a powerful method in microbial ecology called 16S amplicon sequencing, that Morelan has successfully implemented in his dissertation research at OSU, to sequence copies of the 16S gene in a microbial species sample. Morelan intends to share his expertise with the NTNU research community.

“I will develop and lead a workshop, the outcome of which will be to demonstrate the 16S amplicon sequencing workflow and analysis,” said Morelan.

Morelan has taught courses in cellular and molecular biology and genetics at OSU. He is a dedicated and passionate teacher, who aspires to have a career teaching and doing research in a university. Morelan believes teachers have a unique access to extraordinary truths about America through their students that can be shared with people living in a different country.

“I think that the United States is such a complex nation that only educators can effectively explain the many nuances of American culture to those whose only exposure to the US is limited to entertainment and news.”

Morelan avidly enjoys cycling and triathlon races and is a treasurer of the OSU Triathlon Club and a volunteer at Cycle Oregon.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at Oregon State University through LeAnn Adam, OSU Advisor for Prestigious Scholarships and Campus Fulbright Program Advisor. For more information, visit their website.