Hormel Institute in Austin host scientists, interns for "Research Day"
The Hormel Institute launched its "Research Day," which they plan to continue through future years. At the event, undergraduate, graduate students and institute scientists shared recent research findings.
AUSTIN — The Hormel Institute launched its first ever “Research Day,” which paved the way for collaborations between interns, post-graduate students and career scientists as they come together to share their recent research.
“Research Day” was an all-day event Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, where friends and family were invited to come by the institute and hear researchers share their findings.
There, they were also able to browse through different poster presentations as interns within the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience presented about what they’ve been up to this summer in the labs.
About 15 SURE interns presented their findings on topics from “diet, gut microbiomes, and breast cancer” to the “effects of manipulation of glucose metabolism on cancer cells.”
“We’ve never had anything like this before,” Jessica Raines-Jones, the institute’s research and development specialist, said.
According to Raines-Jones, the event serves as a way “to get people out of the labs” and share their research.
Over the years, the Hormel Institute has transitioned from its initial focus on food safety to more cancer-centered research.
Many of the speakers’ and interns’ work centered around potential developments in cancer treatments, but the institute as a whole looks into prevention of other chronic diseases as well.
Stephanie Holtorf is a graduate student who spoke just before the intern’s presentations about her research in Rebecca Morris’s lab.
The focus: “Evidence for epithelial cells in Human and murine blood and bone marrow.”
During her speech, Holtorf talked about her current work with skin cancer and stem cells and mentioned her origins as a SURE intern about six years ago.
“I liked it so much that I came back,” Holtorf said before jumping into epithelial cells, high cellular turnover, stem cells and the connection to cancer.
“The point of research is to generally translate it to humans,” Holtorf said to the audience. “I’m hoping these are stem cells and will have a broader impact on cancer research.”
As Holtorf wrapped up her speech, she directed visitors to the intern presentations happening just outside the auditorium in the hall.
“You can go out and support them,” Holtorf said. “They worked really hard this summer.”
The intern’s hard work this summer was apparent as their presentations attracted the intrigue of career researchers and awestruck expressions from family and friends.
Christen Gibson's presentation in particular drew a small crowd as she explained the connection between TEPP-46, an activator that can alter cell metabolisms, and tumor treatment.
By looking at different focus factors, such as how much oxygen cells consume, Gibson focused on whether TEPP-46 can decrease apoptosis and tumor growth.
“If we find it is an effective way to treat tumors, it could one day be used as a cancer treatment,” Gibson said. “Hopefully, one day it would be seen in clinical trials.”
Just a few poster boards over from Gibson’s presentation was that of Katie Dore, another SURE intern.
Dore looked at lymphoid-specific helicase (HELLS), which left unregulated in cancer tissue can lead to tumor growth and advanced cancer stages.
“Resistance to chemotherapy has been found in 90% of deaths related to cancer,” Dore said.
According to Dore, the development of a HELLS inhibitor is important because if used in conjunction with chemotherapy, it could increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
From her internship experience, Dore said her key takeaways are that “research is a collaborative process” and is “not always a straightforward path to finding the right answer.”
According to Kelly Vincelette, the institute’s community and outreach specialist, Research Day was a good opportunity for interns to reflect on their experience and show people the “great work that they’ve done” as they complete the program’s last week.
Overall, Research Day serves as a “capstone of the summer and the internship” for the interns, who are hopefully the next generation of researchers, Vincellete said.
As SURE intern Abby Lewerenz talked about her summer project, she mentioned how the internship confirmed her career interest in this type of research.
Lewerenz, who is now a senior at Concordia University, said she now plans on continuing her studies at graduate school.
“It’s a really good experience,” Lewerenz said. “It just reinforces that I want to move (further).”