Students in the department of biology have been working throughout the summer on research projects. Many of the projects, including Benton Hurt’s, are focused on the thyroid and thyroid irregularities.
Benton is a senior cell and molecular biology major, and his project is focused specifically on how cells regulate the thyroid under different types of stress.
“We’re looking to see if there is a marked difference in RNA expression in the macrophages, which are immune cells,” Benton said. “The goal ties into broader research going on in the department to better understand hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.”
William Thierfelder, associate professor of biology, has been working on the project with Benton. He said some of the things they are studying are possible because of new equipment provided by donors.
“This machine, the Bio-Rad qPCR, is a complex piece of machinery,” he said. “But it basically allows us to measure gene expression in these cells.”
Thierfelder said the research may help find ways of treating thyroid irregularities that cause metabolism issues and other symptoms. Benton said even though the project does not sound exciting to most people, he has enjoyed the process.
“It’s nice to be able to work on something like this and later be able to see how it ties into the bigger picture,” he said. “We’re not looking for a major discovery, but every part of the research is important.”
Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody