Academic Discovery

Biology major Ryan Cook is one of 34 Viterbo students who are making the most of their summer by participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

“I thought it would be a good experience and allow me to learn many valuable things,” Cook said. “In addition to conducting the experiment and applying the science, I’ll be presenting the findings to others and learning about working in a lab environment.”

Cook and fellow student Tori Voight are researching aspects of autoimmune disease, specifically inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), under the mentorship of faculty member Chris Mayne. The research examines why the immune system is attacking not only the intestinal tissue but symbiotic bacteria as well, how genetics may contribute to the disease, and why IBD patients also have the presence of abnormal bacteria in their intestines.

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program features eight-week, student-faculty collaborative research projects involving research teams from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. This year, 34 students and 22 faculty members are participants.

“From this research, we hope to gain a greater understanding of how certain genes may play a role in the onset and propagation of IBD,” Cook said.

For Mayne, being a faculty mentor to student researchers allows him to do more of the educating he enjoys.

“It is very rewarding to do this type of work with students,” said Mayne, whose fields of expertise are genetics and immunology. “I love getting students excited about science, research, and discovering new things. In addition to the educational benefits, research projects are great for students applying for graduate school or professional jobs.”

Click for more information on the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.