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Seniors share research with legislators

Three South Dakota State University students will tell legislators about their research in nursing, applied mathematics and cell biology during the annual Student Poster Session in Pierre Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

Senior nursing student Lauren Shell of Spirit Lake, Iowa, will describe her research on integrating spiritual assessment into patient care. Senior mathematics major Nick Stegmeier of Tea will talk about how he improved a fluid flow simulation program that engineers can use to design anything from pipes to jet engines.

Senior biology/microbiology major Carson Eisenbeisz of Pierre, who represents BioSystems Networks and Translational Research (BioSNTR), works on a type of white blood cells, known as macrophages, and the signaling mechanisms that control their cellular growth. BioSNTR provides infrastructure and support for research on human, plant and animal diseases and is funded through a South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research National Science Foundation RII Track 1 award.

Assessing patients’ spiritual needs

Lauren Shell
Lauren Shell

“As nurses, we must care for patients, body and soul,” Shell explained. “I’ve grown in my own faith and spiritual life,” she said, but when faced with addressing those needs in patients, she found herself feeling uncomfortable.

Under the guidance of associate dean Mary Minton, Shell interviewed 10 SDSU student nurse interns about spiritual assessment. Though nursing students understand the importance of addressing spiritual and emotional needs, Shell learned, “We’re uncertain about how to go about it, what signs to look for.”

 She identified the need for students to practice what they learn in class with regard to assessing a client’s spiritual needs. Shell concluded that experiential learning and faculty role-modeling would help strengthen this part of the nursing curriculum.

“We will experience mortality and see hardship in others, but we must learn to meet patients where they are,” she added. After going on a mission trip to Ghana, Shell will begin work in the cardiac telemetry unit at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines in July.

Improving fluid flow model

Nick Stegmeier
Nick Stegmeier

“This project is the perfect mix of physics from an engineering standpoint and mathematics,” said Stegmeier, who transferred to SDSU after three years at the University of Sioux Falls. “It opened up this field to me.”

Stegmeier altered a computational fluid dynamics program that was part of assistant mechanical engineering professor Jeff Doom’s dissertation, replacing the Gauss-Seidel iterative solver with a suite of algorithms from the Portable, Extensible Toolkit for Scientific Computation. The open-source software, developed by Argonne National Laboratory, is written by mathematicians and computer scientists.

The changes made the program faster and able to handle slower fluid flows than the original version, Stegmeier explained. Using the program, engineers can predict, for instance, how changing the diameter of a nozzle might affect a component. “It is incredibly important for any technical design involving fluid flow,” he said.

Associate professor Jung-Han Kimn helped guided him through the process. "Each day I was stuck on something new,” Stegmeier said. “Instead of telling me the answer, he’d reframe the problem and typically then I could solve it.”

This summer he will work at Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then will return to SDSU in the fall for graduate school.

 Unraveling cell signaling

Carson Eisenbeisz
Carson Eisenbeisz

Eisenbeisz began working in assistant biology and microbiology professor Natalie Thiex’s lab last summer. Using macrophages from mouse bone marrow and mouse fetal livers, he examined the proteins that interact when colony-stimulating signaling factor-1, or CSF-1, binds to CSF-1 receptors (CSF-1R) on the cell surface. This signaling process allows the macrophage to grow, reproduce and move throughout the body.

Each macrophage has thousands of CSF-1 receptors, he explained. After the signal is transmitted, the receptors are taken into the cell and degraded in the lysosomes, which Eisenbeisz referred to as the cell’s trash compacter. He examined the shape and location of the developing protein signal cascade during this process.

Much of the knowledge on these interactions are extrapolated from epidermal growth factor receptors that are associated with breast cancer, Eisenbeisz explained. However, the work done in Thiex’s lab suggests that CF-1R may be signaling in unique ways.  

“This experience has given me an appreciation for the things we do know about biology, the human body and science,” said Eisenbeisz, who will go to medical school next fall. Additionally, he noted, “it has sparked my intellectual curiosity. In the classroom, we don’t question what we learn, but after working in the lab, I realize, our scientific knowledge is not always set in stone.”

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