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SDSU holds first bio-imaging competition

An image taken of a squid used in wound healing research
The winning submission of the first-ever SDSU Bio-Imaging Competition. The image is of a squid.

Brian Kobylkevich won South Dakota State’s first-ever bio-imaging competition held in late January. Kobylkevich was one of 11 entries by students in life science-related majors.

Volker Brozel, the department head for biology and microbiology, said that this competition was created to help students present their research in ways everyone can understand.

“One of the challenges we researchers have is showing what we do,” he said.

Entries were from students in the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. The students needed to submit microscopic images of their research along with a short description.

Kobylkevich is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in microbiology. He conducts his research under Mark Messerli, assistant professor of biology and microbiology, submitted images of a squid to display his research on wound healing. His research studies chitin, a polymer that is produced by insects, crustaceans and mollusks. Kobylkevich is studying how chitin can be used to create biodegradable plastics and bandages.

“Chitin has some really interesting wound-healing properties that make the gauzes and wound dressings made of it incredibly effective haemostatic agents that stop bleeding quickly, accelerate wound healing when compared to normal cotton-based bandages, and our bodies break it down so it can even be left inside a wound while the wound heals,” Kobylkevich said.

“I am glad that the university and the biology and microbiology department have these kinds of competitions,” he said. “They are fun and have real-world applications, with this running me through how to make my research results eye-catching. Since that’s needed from conferences to job interviews, I’m glad I was able to take a shot practicing it with something on the line.”

In the image, the chitin appears in the squid’s backbone, which shows as fluorescent green. Kobylkevich received a $1,500 travel grant to help pay for expenses when traveling to conferences to continue to present his research.

Second place went to Paul Gaillard who works in the lab of Sen Subramanian. Shimara Gunawardana, Joshi Lok and Rifat Sultana were honorable mention selections. The runner-up received a $1,000 travel grant and the other three each received a $300 travel grant. Other entries included hormones in soybean root tips, triple-negative metastatic breast cancer cells, plaque in arteries and viruses in pigs.

Darci Fink, Mike Hildreth, Adam Hoppe, Natalie Thiex, Messerli and Subramanian comprised the panel of judges. “Faculty just came to the table and worked together … they jelled pretty quickly,” Brozel said.

Although this was the first competition, Brozel hopes to make it an annual event. He said that this is just a piece of the puzzle of promoting science at SDState.

“This competition showcases that there is a critical mass of biology and science at SDSU spread across departments and colleges,” he said.

Students who have an interest in bio-imaging can take BIOL 645.