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muscle mass to lizards
UROP symposium showcases undergraduate research
Slow, progressive resistance strength training has been proven to increase
muscle strength in the elderly. But is high-velocity power training even
more effective? That is the question Rochelle Lima wanted to answer, so
she tapped into the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
Lima (SAR'02) and 36 other UROP students will present their research
during the program's Undergraduate Research Symposium on Friday, October
12, from noon to 2 p.m. in the Photonics Building's second floor atrium.
UROP, which promotes undergraduates' participation in faculty-mentored
research, has been holding these fall symposiums since 1998.
Because UROP serves as a University-wide clearinghouse for undergraduate
research opportunities, Lima thought that it would be a perfect program
to help her become familiar with the entire research process, from the
proposal stage to the actual thesis. The human physiology major plans
to apply to medical school, and has worked as a volunteer patient advocate
in the Boston Medical Center emergency room. "But I didn't have any
research experience," she says. "I talked to my advisor, Professor
Roger Fielding, and he hired me to work in Sargent College's human physiology
laboratory in January."
Fielding, an associate professor in Sargent's health sciences department,
has been an advocate of weight training for the elderly for more than
a decade. In the late 1990s, however, he began comparing the physiologic
and functional effects of power strength training (quick, explosive bursts
of energy) with customary training (deliberate movements with less weight
but more repetitions) among this population. The latter is known to build
endurance and reverse sarcopenia, an age-related loss in muscle mass.
But he theorizes that power training may be even more useful in preventing
fall-related injuries, which account for 40 percent of hospital admissions
among people over 65.
Fielding's latest study compares changes in skeletal muscle fiber size
and distribution in 30 elderly women using both types of weight training
for 16 weeks. Thigh muscle biopsies were taken at the beginning, halfway
through, and at the conclusion of the four-month regimen. "We completed
an analysis using a computer-assisted image system," says Lima. Preliminary
data confirm Fielding's theory, but Lima says that sample analysis will
go on for months.
Lima says that compressing a plethora of information into a poster --
and explaining her work in several minutes -- won't be easy. "The
symposium enables students to show off their work, but it's a little nerve-racking
to be concise in such a complicated study," she says.
Liam Revell (CAS'03), who is studying color pattern variation in a lizard
native to Guadeloupe, echoes the sentiment. "Displaying a condensed
version of a long paper is a huge challenge," says Revell, a biology
major. Still, with a roaming audience in the middle of an activity-filled
Homecoming/Parents Weekend, brief and reader-friendly text is essential.
UROP has let students know that a rambling presentation will turn people
Revell went to the eastern Caribbean island for three weeks in June to
do research on the colorful lizard known as anolis marmoratus. He wanted
to test the hypothesis of CAS Assistant Biology Professor Chris Schneider
(see story on page 1) "that the remarkable variation among populations
of this lizard represents adaptation to local light conditions,"
Although Guadeloupe is getting quite a reputation for ecotourism, Revell
stuck to business. Every day, after an hour-long morning run -- he is
on the BU track and cross country teams -- he collected tissue samples
from the lizards. "We sampled 104 individuals to analyze genetic,
morphologic, and color variation," he says. Revell and fellow researchers
also measured ambient light and reflectance from background vegetation,
and were able to confirm Schneider's hypothesis.
While many of the presentations at the symposium are science-oriented,
UROP's definition of research is broad. Students may participate in any
scientific, scholarly, or artistic activity that leads to the production
of new knowledge, increases problem-solving capabilities including design
and analysis, or produces original critical or historical critical theory
UROP posts faculty-submitted research opportunities and links to faculty
research interests on its Web site, www.bu.edu/urop. Research sponsors
at this year's symposium include UROP, the National Institutes of Health,
the National Science Foundation, Pfizer, Inc., the Northeast Alliance
for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, and the Mark W. Rieman (CAS'75)
Research Prize Competition.