Madelyne (Maddie) Besack was awarded a Beta Beta Beta Research Grant for her project “Characterization of Wnt Pathway Disruption on Axis Patterning in Nematostella vectensis”. Beta Beta Beta, the National Biological Honor Society, recognizes projects from select undergraduate student members of the honor society on the basis of a research proposal reviewed by regional directors.
Maddie and her research partner, John Greaves are continuing their work on this exciting line of investigation in a novel model organism, Nematostella vectensis, the starlet sea anemone. This simple organism holds a unique branch point on the tree of life and may hold keys to understanding the molecular regulation of traits shared with more complex animals, including humans. This project aims to further characterize the cellular events that regulate axis formation in this organism and to better understand how intracellular signaling molecules in the Wnt pathway, when disrupted by pharmacological agents, alter morphogenesis in these organisms. This team’s preliminary data show severe disruption of axis specification and in some cases we observed duplication of the axis with dramatic consequences for the embryos.
This project has also been supported by a Better FUTURES for Iowans grant from the University of Iowa for undergraduate research, and the Iowa Science Foundation (J. Brittingham).
Other recent Beta Beta Beta Research Grant award recipients from Simpson College include John Greaves (2012-2013) and Allison Boardman (2008-2009).