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One Minute With a Researcher

The Office for Research is proud to present our YouTube series  "One Minute with a Researcher" where researchers across campus provide insight into their areas of study.


Research in the News:

Stories Behind the Science: Leaving the Fear Behind to Pursue Greatness

Berenice Sosa Aispuro, a sophomore at Idaho State University double majoring in nuclear and mechanical engineering, is not someone unfamiliar with challenges. At one and a half years old, Sosa Aispuro landed in Weiser, Idaho after her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. Growing up in Weiser, Sosa Aispuro experienced a variety of interactions both positive and negative. 

The adversity she met led her to a high school club called Future Hispanic Leaders of America (FHLA). Through FHLA, Sosa Aispruo attended an ISU-hosted Healthcare and Technology conference technology portion. “They talked about the different types of engineering, what you can do with engineering, and I became fascinated. And I was like, this is way better than what I had ever wanted to do before,” said Sosa Aispuro. 

Overcoming her DACA status and being a first-generation student, she got the assistance she needed to get an application in to ISU. Due to COVID-19, she decided to retake an engineering course, where she then met Dr. Mustafa Mushal. With no engineering experience, she applied for an undergraduate research assistant position in Dr. Mushal’s civil and environmental engineering lab and was accepted.

Sosa Aispuro now helps graduate students in the lab study the differences in durability between precast concrete and cast in place concrete. “For example...a concrete bridge. A lot of times we'll see a bridge construction, and see cast in place, which is [when] they'll put the concrete in as they're building. It's like a build as you go type of thing.” Cast in place concrete is the more traditional approach to building with concrete, whereas precast concrete is a newer, more sustainable.

Sosa Aispuro has defied the odds as an immigrant and a first generation college student, pushing past the expectations of those around her to follow her passion. She plans on getting her Ph.D. one day and continuing research in renewable energy. 

2021 ISU INBRE Awards

INBRE (Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence) is an NIH (National Institutes of Health) grant opportunity for the Institutional Development Award (IDeA). It is in the Division of Research Capacity Building (DRCB) and is a congressionally mandated program to support states with low NIH funding to expand their research capacity. INBRE IDeA focuses on facilitating opportunities, developing talent, increasing resources, and coordinating research. The program started in 1962 and will celebrate its 60th year in 2022. It is a prestigious program having the honor of funding the research of 81 Nobel Prize winners.

ISU in collaboration with U of I and BSU submit a proposal theme for 5 years of funding, 2021 marked the 3rd year of the current funding period. INBRE Mentors sponsor Undergraduate Students in a 10-week summer program in their laboratory. Which ends with the annual INBRE conference where the progress of their work and outcomes are presented. The Undergraduate research program, supported by ISU INBRE and by ISU, has been the most valued component of our relationship with INBRE Idaho.

It is then with great satisfaction that ISU Faculty, Undergraduate and Graduate Students participated in the 2021 INBRE conference. This year ISU Students have honored our institution with the distinction of receiving 4 awards, the highest total ever received at this conference by ISU. In addition to our ISU Students' successes, we are also pleased to announce grant awards have been given to 2 of our Faculty. These awards were given to Dr. Jared Barrott, Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences for his project: “Bioprinting 3D sarcoma organoids on a liquid-liquid interface to promote functional precision medicine.” Dr. Julia Martin, Department of Biological Sciences for her project: “Determine the role of Ca in Mn homeostasis and bacterial capsule biogenesis.”

We want to take a moment to thank and show great pride in the following student award recipients:

Kate West, 1st place Participants Choice Poster and 2nd place for her lightning talk. INBRE Mentor Dr. Heather Ray of the Department of Biological Sciences. 

Brenden Meldrum, 3rd place Participants Choice Poster. INBRE Mentor Dr. Jared Barrott of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences. 

Sydnie Cates, 3rd place Faculty Choice Poster. INBRE Mentor Dr. Michele Brumley of the Department of Psychology. 


Stories behind the science: Breaking barriers 

Excerpts from full article - While taking a microbiology course at ISU, Hannah Aken became enamored with living creatures we cannot see with the naked eye- microbes.

“There's these little things, but you can't see them. You can't feel them, but they make you totally sick. They can kill you. They can ruin the ecosystem, they can mess with anything in our daily lives.” she said.

In the summer of 2019, Aken was accepted as a fellow into the Idaho Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

During the program, Aken studied the pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae under Dr. Julia Martin at ISU. S. pneumoniae is a bacterium that in minor situations, causes an ear infection, but can be as severe as pneumonia and meningitis. Hannah specifically looked at the effects of magnesium, a transition metal, on the capsule of the bacterium. Magnesium has been found to be a structural component of the capsule. “The capsule is an outer coating that the bacterium forms in order to protect itself from being killed from the host's immune system,” she explains, “and so [the capsule is]  harmful for us, because then it lets the bacteria live longer in our body.” By looking at how different quantities of magnesium impact capsule growth, Aken was able to determine that the more magnesium the bacteria had access to, the thicker the capsule. After 10 weeks of pipetting samples, growing cells, and performing assays, Hannah’s skills and confidence grew and her passion for microbiology was solidified.

Aken has since completed a second research internship and has presented at five different conferences across the U.S.