An alumnus and two current Upper Iowa University School of Mathematics and Science students presented their recent research before members of the R.J. McElroy Trust in Waverly, Iowa, Tuesday, April 18. The three presenters, Matt Meulemans, Baridosia Kumbe and Kolter Freidhof were recipients of grants from the R.J. McElroy Trust, based in Waterloo, Iowa.
Matt Meulemans, a senior majoring in both environmental science and conservation management, received the grant for his senior thesis research project studying the health of smallmouth bass in lakes in north central Wisconsin. The Kimberly, Wisconsin, native used the grant money to offset his equipment and gasoline costs.
Meulemans credited his fisheries management class at UIU and his internship with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for providing him with the knowledge to complete his research. Meulemans plans to continue his education with a master’s degree in fish biology or aquatic ecology following graduation.
“Matt did all the work and that is the biggest compliment I can give him,” said UIU Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey Butikofer, who advised Meulemans on his research project. “We produce students who can work independently, because that is what employers are looking for in this field.”
Baridosia Kumbe and Kolter Freidhof were also recipients of the R.J. McElroy Trust for their research project about influencing cells and their pathways. The grant money was used to purchase the specific plasmids and reagents needed to conduct the research. Kumbe focused on bone regeneration while Freidhof was responsible for trying to get the cells to express a green fluorescent protein and track it using fluorescent microscopy.
William Jones, UIU assistant professor of biology, praised the hard work that Kumbe and Freidhof demonstrated in the classroom that translated to their complex research project
“Doing this research under the tutelage of Dr. Jones turned my book knowledge into hands-on experience,” said Kumbe, who came to UIU from Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. “I now understand the importance of various techniques and how to apply them to make me a successful researcher, as I hope to enter the neuroscience field.”
Freidhof, a Cresco, Iowa, native, graduated from UIU in December 2016 and now works at a Mayo Clinic research lab. Freidhof hopes to either move up the ranks at Mayo Clinic as a lab manager or pursue further education to become a physician assistant.
The R.J. McElroy Trust was founded in 1965 and awards up to $2 million per year to help inspire students and transform northeast Iowa. The benefactor was R.J. McElroy, a pioneer Iowa broadcaster.