In Print: Jill Olin Co-Authors Article Suggesting Subsequent Studies Spotlighting Sharks

Jill Olin
Jill Olin

Jill Olin was co-author of a paper that recently appeared in the Journal of Fish Biology. The co-authors argue that research about sharks and their populations needs to be expanded in the face of recent spikes in shark-human interactions in the coastal areas of New York. In addition, ECO Magazine recently mentioned the paper in a story about shark attacks along the New York coast.

Brigitte Morin, 2023 University Diversity Award Winner

Brigitte Morin
Brigitte Morin

Congratulations to Brigitte Morin: the winner of the 2023 University Diversity Award!!

Brigitte attended Michigan Tech in 2001, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS). She also received a certificate in Secondary Education and minors in both General Science and Spanish. Following graduation in 2006, Brigitte taught high school Biology for six years in Illinois. After receiving an MS degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University, Brigitte has returned to Michigan Tech as a lecturer, primarily in the MLS program.

The Michigan Technological University Diversity Award recognizes the accomplishments of a faculty and/or staff member of the University who contributes to diversity, equity, and inclusion through exemplary leadership and actions. Recipients will demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and sense of belonging (DEIS) as through recruitment and retention efforts, teaching, research, culturally responsive mentorship, inclusive programming, diversity literacy, community outreach activities, or other initiatives.

Casey Huckins, Brigitte Morin, and Amy Marcarelli
Casey Huckins, Brigitte Morin, and Amy Marcarelli

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

In Print: Erika Hersch-Green and Angela Walczyk

Congratulations to Dr. Angela Walczyk (recent Ph.D. from Biological Sciences) and her advisor Dr. Erika Hersch-Green for their two new publications! You can access the papers here:

Erika Hersch-Green
Erika Hersch-Green

1. Exciting findings that genome size can affect resource requirements and genomic/transcriptomic functional trait trade-offs. 


Premise: Increased genome-material costs of N and P atoms inherent to organisms with larger genomes have been proposed to limit growth under nutrient scarcities and to promote growth under nutrient enrichments. Such responsiveness may reflect a nutrient-dependent diploid versus polyploid advantage that could have vast ecological and evolutionary implications, but direct evidence that material costs increase with ploidy level and/or influence cytotype-dependent growth, metabolic, and/or resource-use trade-offs is limited.

Methods: We grew diploid, autotetraploid, and autohexaploid Solidago gigantea plants with one of four ambient or enriched N:P ratios and measured traits related to material costs, primary and secondary metabolism, and resource-use.

Results: Relative to diploids, polyploids invested more N and P into cells, and tetraploids grew more with N enrichments, suggesting that material costs increase with ploidy level. Polyploids also generally exhibited strategies that could minimize material-cost constraints over both long (reduced monoploid genome size) and short (more extreme transcriptome downsizing, reduced photosynthesis rates and terpene concentrations, enhanced N-use efficiencies) evolutionary time periods. Furthermore, polyploids had lower transpiration rates but higher water-use efficiencies than diploids, both of which were more pronounced under nutrient-limiting conditions.

Conclusions: N and P material costs increase with ploidy level, but material-cost constraints might be lessened by resource allocation/investment mechanisms that can also alter ecological dynamics and selection. Our results enhance mechanistic understanding of how global increases in nutrients might provide a release from material-cost constraints in polyploids that could impact ploidy (or genome-size)-specific performances, cytogeographic patterning, and multispecies community structuring.

Angela Walczyk
Angela Walczyk

2. Finding that tetraploid Giant Goldenrods may be pre-adapted to be good invaders but that polyploidy per se does not increase phenotypic plasticity. 


Polyploidy commonly occurs in invasive species, and phenotypic plasticity (PP, the ability to alter one’s phenotype in different environments) is predicted to be enhanced in polyploids and to contribute to their invasive success. However, empirical support that increased PP is frequent in polyploids and/or confers invasive success is limited. Here, we investigated if polyploids are more pre-adapted to become invasive than diploids via the scaling of trait values and PP with ploidy level, and if post-introduction selection has led to a divergence in trait values and PP responses between native- and non-native cytotypes. We grew diploid, tetraploid (from both native North American and non-native European ranges), and hexaploid Solidago gigantea in pots outside with low, medium, and high soil nitrogen and phosphorus (NP) amendments, and measured traits related to growth, asexual reproduction, physiology, and insects/pathogen resistance. Overall, we found little evidence to suggest that polyploidy and post-introduction selection shaped mean trait and PP responses. When we compared diploids to tetraploids (as their introduction into Europe was more likely than hexaploids) we found that tetraploids had greater pathogen resistance, photosynthetic capacities, and water-use efficiencies and generally performed better under NP enrichments. Furthermore, tetraploids invested more into roots than shoots in low NP and more into shoots than roots in high NP, and this resource strategy is beneficial under variable NP conditions. Lastly, native tetraploids exhibited greater plasticity in biomass accumulation, clonal-ramet production, and water-use efficiency. Cumulatively, tetraploid S. gigantea possesses traits that might have predisposed and enabled them to become successful invaders. Our findings highlight that trait expression and invasive species dynamics are nuanced, while also providing insight into the invasion success and cyto-geographic patterning of S. gigantea that can be broadly applied to other invasive species with polyploid complexes.

New Funding: Amy Marcarelli and Michelle Kelly

Amy Marcarelli is the principal investigator (PI) on a project that has received a $300,000 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is titled “MSA: Quantifying whole-stream denitrification and nitrogen fixation with integrated modeling of N2 and O2 fluxes.”

Michelle Kelly is a co-PI on this potential two-year project.

Amy is an ecosystem ecologist with interests in energy and biogeochemical cycles in freshwaters. Her research program blends basic and applied research and integrates across aquatic habitats, including streams, rivers, wetlands, lake littoral zones, and the nearshore regions of the Great Lakes. Dr. Marcarelli’s past and future research trajectory is governed by an interest in understanding the role of small, poorly quantified fluxes or perturbations on ecosystem processes and in linking those ecosystem processes to the underlying structure of microbial, algal, macrophyte, and animal communities.

Congratulations Dr. Marcarelli and Michelle Kelly!

Amy Marcarelli
Amy Marcarelli
Michelle Kelly
Michelle Kelly

Nursing Student Advice from Sarah Kuiper

Baby on sled, Sarah holding a large dog
Exploring the Keweenaw winters!

Sarah Kuiper is a fourth-year nursing student, getting her bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) who found that nursing is much more than taking vitals and giving shots. Sarah recounts her experiences as a BSN student and her advice for nursing students.

Why did you choose to go into nursing? Was there a life experience you had? Tell me about it.

I decided to go into nursing after the birth of my first child. Before that experience, I thought a nurse was just someone who gave shots and took vitals. After my daughter’s birth, I learned that nursing is really so much more than that. They are not only caregivers but teachers and advocates. That encounter not only taught me that nursing was in my future but also the significant positive impact that one person can have on the healthcare experience.

The concept of an academic family enhances the learning experience for nursing students. How did your academic family help you in your first years in the program?

My academic family helped me during the first few years by providing study tips, a listening ear, and by giving me a great understanding of what it would take to be successful. They checked in on us to see how we were doing and were always our biggest cheerleaders.

In what way did the academic family concept help you as an upperclassman mentoring and giving advice to newer nursing students?

By providing tutoring and helping our “kids” in the skills lab, I gained confidence in my own skills and knowledge. It also helped me retain what I learned during the first years in the program.

Sarah Kuiper standing with a camera next to a river
Sarah Kuiper, Senior

Where did/will you complete the majority of your clinical hours?

We have a huge variety of clinical locations. I spent a significant amount of time at both hospitals, as well as various local clinics, schools, long-term care, and hospice facilities. Our mental health clinicals included hours at a residential substance abuse house. We also helped to teach life skills to those with developmental disabilities. My most memorable experiences have been when we traveled to Marquette for clinical rotations in intensive care, NICU, and behavioral health units. Each clinical site has a different focus, and the places we are sent depend on what classes we are taking that semester.

What are some of the things you do during clinicals? What do you enjoy the most about the experience?

The things we get to do in clinical progress throughout the program. Only once we have been checked off on a skill in the lab can we do it in the clinical setting. We started doing basic care such as providing hygiene, transfers, and taking vitals. We do patient assessments and learn to document according to the facility that we are at. Skills progress to the point where we start IVs, insert catheters and NG tubes, and even pass medications alongside an RN. In addition to skills, I have gotten to observe multiple surgeries and even a few births! The part I enjoy most is working alongside nurses in our community.

What have you learned about yourself from the clinical experience?

Sarah with baby on her back walking outside in the winter
Sarah enjoying the outdoors

I’ve learned I will never stop learning. Nursing education goes far beyond the classroom, and I have only scratched the surface of all there is to know. Clinicals keep me humble and focused on the main goal of providing the best care possible. Also, the great variety of clinical locations helped me learn where I love to be and want to work in the future.

How do you think the clinical experience has set you up for success in your after-graduation plans?

The clinical experience gives me the opportunity to practice skills in a real nursing setting. As someone who plans to work locally after graduation, each clinical site could be a future place of employment. In addition to getting a basic understanding of the job at that facility, clinical is a chance to network with future co-workers and employers.

What advice do you have for nursing students getting ready to go through clinical?

Study up for your clinical day in order to come prepared. If you know you are going to work with a particular diagnosis, see a specific procedure, or pass a certain medication, look up everything you can on it the night before. Write your self notes on the topic and write down any questions you may have. Be prepared to DO things, seek out opportunities to practice skills, and take the initiative to give yourself the best possible learning experience.

What advice do you have for high schoolers who are considering getting a BSN?

Remember WHY you want to be a nurse and be prepared to work hard. Use all the resources available to you, and reach out for help when you need it.

New Funding: Yan Zhang

Yan Zhang
Yan Zhang

Yan Zhang is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $469,500 research and development grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The project titled “High urinary phosphate induces TLR4-mediated inflammation and cystogenesis in polycystic kidney disease” is a potential two-year project.

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common, potentially lethal genetic disorder characterized by the progressive enlargement of numerous fluid-filled cysts and the development of interstitial inflammation and fibrosis. ADPKD is caused by the mutation of PKD1 or PKD2 gene. Approximately 50% of patients progress to end-stage renal disease by middle age and require dialysis or renal transplantation. Currently, treatment options for ADPKD patients are limited; thus, the development of new effective therapies is urgent. Dr. Zhang’s research lab investigates the role of innate immunity in the pathological microenvironment of ADPKD and the potential therapeutic effects of manipulating innate immunity. Dr. Zhang’s lab shows interest in determining the function of polycystin-1 encoded by PKD1.

Congratulations Dr. Yan Zhang!

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Nursing Nuggets: Allison’s Advice for Nursing Newbies

Clinicals are a key component of any nursing program. students will spend as much as 180 hours in a healthcare setting like a hospital, urgent care, or long-term care facility, getting hands-on experience. We spoke with Allison Cooper, who talked about her clinical experience. She also discussed the benefits of academic families, a key way incoming nursing students are supported by their peers. Allison also offers advice to students interested in pursuing this degree.

Allison Cooper
Allison Cooper

Why did you choose to go into nursing? Was there a life experience you had?

My mother was a nurse before she got chronically sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) when I was about two years old. Originally I thought I wanted to go into nursing because of her being a nurse. However, that was not the case. What drew me to nursing was my love for science but with a human twist. I remember always looking up CFS to learn more about something that still does not have a cure. I also was able to watch my own surgery and thought that it was the coolest thing ever to see my tendons and how they move.

I also love the direct patient contact nursing has to offer. Nurses are one of the biggest support persons for patients who are, sometimes, at the lowest part of their lives because of being sick. For me specifically, I wanted to be able to give back to the men and women in the military and work as a nurse within the military.

The concept of an academic family enhances the learning experience. How did your academic family help you in your first years in the program?

The first year of the nursing program can be difficult because of learning how to balance school, work, and social life. My academic family was not only a mentor but a massive support system when figuring this out. I was able to go to them with any questions I had about classes and how to time manage everything. They were also my family away from home, and I was able to do non-nursing activities and build lasting friendships with them!

Two women in masks and blue shirts serving pancakes and sausage
Serving pancakes at the Student Nurses Association benefit breakfast for Omega House

In what way did the academic family concept help you as an upperclassman mentoring newer students?

I loved the academic family even more as an upperclassman. I actually found a passion for teaching, which is something I never saw myself doing. It was a great way to ease the sophomores’ nerves as they went through their first year in the program. It was also a great refresher for information as I began studying for the NCLEX!

Where did you complete the majority of your clinical hours?

We completed the majority of the clinical hours at the local hospitals- Portage and Aspirus. But, we had a lot of different experiences. We went to the local clinics. We went to Marquette for more specialty areas, such as psychiatric and neonatal intensive care nursing.

I had the opportunity to visit many settings. The majority of it was in the hospital setting between medical-surgical, emergency room, intensive care unit, surgery, and labor and delivery. But, I was able to go to Marquette for more critical care in their intensive care and emergency room. I also did a couple semesters with rotations in hospice, oncology, pediatrics clinic, and pediatric cardiology, and family practice clinics!

My favorite clinical experience was in the emergency room in Marquette. I was able to see a trauma in the ER which I always thought would be a setting I’d like. So, it was great to be able to be in the midst of it helping. It definitely solidified that as an area I could see myself in! I also really enjoyed labor and delivery because it was something that I didn’t think I’d have an interest in. But, with that rotation, I was able to see and do the nursing care for deliveries of newborns. That was when I realized that I also enjoyed that area of nursing as well.

Woman sitting on a Jeep with cloudy skies
Cliff Drive views during the color change in October

What are some of the things you did during nursing clinicals? What did you enjoy the most about the experience?

Throughout my three years of clinical experience, I was able to practice many nursing skills, like IV inserts, inserting Foley catheters, and suctioning! I feel going through the clinical rotations, a student learns the fundamentals of nursing and how to be a nurse. I learned how to effectively communicate with patients therapeutically and how to put into practice the concepts we learned in the classroom. What I enjoyed the most about my clinical experience was being able to physically be in the different specialties. This helped me narrow down the things that I liked and did not like. I also really enjoyed being able to practice my skills in a real-life setting.

What did you learn about yourself from the clinical experience?

The clinical experience allowed my passion for nursing and compassion for people to really shine through. It made me realize nursing was the best choice I could have chosen for myself! In addition, I learned that I am able to persevere through challenges and problem-solve.

How do you think the clinical experience has set you up for success in your after-graduation plans?

The program has us go through a detailed clinical. We spent 180 hours a semester at sites and had paperwork to fill out for the rotations. I feel this prepared me very well for life after graduation because of all the in-person time I had in a setting where I would be working while practicing my skills. The paperwork, although sometimes tedious, was well worth it. As I filled it out, it made me think about diseases and how it affects a person. It made me feel comfortable and confident going into my career.

Woman and dog sitting on rocks at the bottom of a waterfall
Allison and her dog, Whealer, Hiking Douglas Houghton Falls

What advice do you have for students getting ready to go through clinical?

The biggest advice I have for students going through clinicals is to always ask questions and get involved in as much as possible. This is the only way you will get the most out of your experience and benefit your education. It was what I did, and I felt I got more out of the clinicals, enhanced my knowledge bank, and practiced skills I know I will need when I graduate.

Allison, what advice do you have for high schoolers who are considering getting a bachelor’s of science in nursing?

Deciding whether or not you want to pursue a BSN can be difficult. I feel shadowing nurses or becoming a certified nursing assistant can really help you decide if it would be a good fit. I did both of these, and it really showed me that I had a passion for nursing and solidified my choice. If that isn’t a doable option if you really enjoy science and anatomy and physiology, this could be a great fit, and I would suggest you give it a try! A BSN also gives you many leadership experiences! It allows you to go into management and other avenues that nursing has to offer other than bedside in hospitals!

NOTE: Allison Cooper received her BSN from Finlandia University in May of 2023. Finlandia University closed in June 2023. The Nursing program (including most faculty and staff) moved to Michigan Technological University shortly thereafter. Tech will incorporate many of the same components Allison mentions in the interview, including clinicals, academic families, coursework, and NCLEX prep. As of the date of this post, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is in the process of obtaining accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and The Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The program has been approved by the Michigan State Board of Nursing. Check back this fall for more detailed information on this exciting new program coming to Michigan Tech.

Swift Strides of Science: Human Biology Student Outpaces Opponents in the Canal Run

Ingrid Seagren
Ingrid Seagren, Canal Run Winner and Human Bio Major

Ingrid Seagren competed in the Canal Run 5K, winning the women’s category and finishing 5th overall. She is going into her sophomore year pursuing a major in Human Biology with minors in pre-health and German. After she graduates, she plans to go to medical school and eventually become a physician. Plus, Ingrid is very active in the local community: 2023 Strawberry Fest Queen candidate, Michigan Tech Cross Country and Track and Field runner, and outdoor enthusiast.

Ingrid has volunteered with the Let’s Eat Community Meals through her church. As a high school student, she was a member of the Interact Club and was involved in numerous service activities, such as making Veteran’s Day Baskets and hosting Fun Days for elementary school students.

Ingrid is also a good student. She was named to Michigan Tech’s Dean’s List in both the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters and was recognized as a member of the Fall 2022 GLIAC Academic All-Excellence Team. As a high school student, she was a member of the National Honor Society.

In her free time, Ingrid enjoys Nordic skiing, waterskiing, hiking, and spending time with friends and family. Congratulations to Ingrid on her running, community and academic accomplishments!

Amy Marcarelli is the recipient of MTU’s 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Associate Professor/Professor category 

Amy Marcarelli
Amy Marcarelli

Amy Marcarelli is a professor of biological sciences and an ecosystem ecologist with an interest in energy and biogeochemical cycles in freshwater bodies. She received her bachelor’s in biology from Colgate University and her Ph.D. in ecology from Utah State. She is the director of both the Ecosystem Science Center and the Aquatic Analysis (AQUA) shared facility at Michigan Tech. Her research applies across aquatic habitats, including streams, rivers, wetlands, lake littoral zones — the sloping area where sunlight reaches from the lake’s surface all the way to the sediment, located between the shore and deeper water — and the nearshore regions of the Great Lakes.

“Amy Marcarelli is a true example of the teacher-scholar model. She maintains an active research program studying ecology of aquatic ecosystems and has administrative duties as the director of our Ecosystem Science Center on campus. Yet she also devotes vast time and talent to doing an outstanding job in the classroom, introducing our students to the remarkable ecology of Lake Superior, involving them by the dozens in research in her laboratory, and preparing students for graduate school and careers. Michigan Tech is fortunate to have Dr. Marcarelli on our faculty.”

David Hemmer, Dean of the Michigan Tech College of Sciences and Arts

Catherine Rono Receives 2023 Songer Research Award

Matthew Songer (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA). This will be used to support a research project competition, the Songer Research Award for Human Health, for undergraduate and graduate students. Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. This is the sixth year of the competition.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have a broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. The Songers’ gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College will allow two additional awards.

Catherine Rono
Catherine Rono

What are you studying and why?

I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Cancer Biology. My decision to focus on Cancer Biology stems from a profound passion and unwavering interest in cancer research. I strongly believe that advancing scientific knowledge in this field is crucial for improving human health and making a significant impact on society.

Having witnessed the devastating effects of cancer firsthand, I was deeply motivated to dedicate my career to understanding and combating this disease. The global impact of cancer and the challenges it presents have only intensified my determination to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected. Being part of the scientific community and working towards finding solutions to this global health concern is both a privilege and a responsibility that I take to heart.

Are you getting the award to continue your research?

I am truly honored to be selected as the recipient of the 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health in the amount of $6,000. This prestigious award will support my research that aims to understand the mechanisms associated with the loss of Liver Kinase B1 (LKB1) function in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). Specifically, I aim to examine the effect of LKB1 loss in sensitizing NSCLC cell lines to Phosphodiesterases 3A (PDE3A) modulators and its role in tumorigenesis. Through these investigations, I hope to uncover valuable insights that will aid in proposing novel biomarker candidates for the treatment of patients with LKB1-deficient cancers. Ultimately, this study will help to contribute to the advancement of personalized and effective therapeutic approaches.

What does the Songer Award mean to you?

This prestigious award holds immense significance for me as it validates the importance of my research and also provides the necessary resources to further contribute to this vital field of study.

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Matthew Songer and Laura Songer for their generous donation and their commitment to supporting groundbreaking research in human health. The confidence and trust that has been placed in me through this award inspires me to push the boundaries of scientific exploration and strive for excellence in my work.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the esteemed panel of judges and reviewers who evaluated the applications. Their time, expertise, and dedication are greatly appreciated.

Lastly, I am indebted to my mentor, colleagues, research team, and the entire Biological Sciences Department for their guidance, encouragement, and invaluable contributions. Their support has been instrumental in the progress I have made thus far. I look forward to their continued collaboration as I continue with my research journey.