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11-25-2015

Clarkson University Student Researches Alzheimer's Disease as Intern in Germany

Clarkson University biomolecular science student Megan Borland '16 traveled to Germany earlier this year to research Alzheimer's disease.

Megan BorlandBorland, of Lake Placid, N.Y., spent three months as a research assistant intern at the University of Konstanz analyzing proteins.

She said the research team focused on the tau protein, which is believed to be involved in forming neurofibrillary tangles that block cell-to-cell signaling in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. When plaques are formed, people are not able to process information in the same way.

Borland, who works with Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science Costel Darie, said one of the biggest differences she observed in Germany was how the University of Konstanz approached the research.

"The only similarity was that we both study proteins, but we study them in a different way," she said. "Here we study quantifying and identifying proteins and comparing them to samples from controls and people with diseases. There we were focusing on the structure of the protein and how we characterize the physical chemistry."

The language barrier was challenging at first, Borland said, but everyone was nice and she quickly learned important phrases. She said the study abroad experience helped her to become more independent.

The Protein SocietyDuring her time abroad, Borland traveled to the Protein Society annual symposium in Barcelona, Spain, where two other Clarkson students presented their research on proteins.

Chemistry doctoral student Kelly Wormwood, of Lowville, N.Y., presented her research on protein biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and Smith-Lemli-Optiz syndrome. Chemistry doctoral student Devika Channaveerappa, of Bangalore, India, who collaborated with chemistry doctoral student Roshanak Aslebagh from Tehran, Iran, presented research on breast cancer biomarkers.

Now back in the United States, Borland is continuing her research in Darie's lab analyzing potential protein biomarkers for autism spectrum disorders.
"If we can identify differences in protein compositions between autism samples and controls, then our research could lead to developing treatments or prevention for autism," she said. "It could even allow doctors to screen for autism at birth if there are specific protein levels to look for, which would allow early behavioral therapy to help the child’s mental development."

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo captions:

mborland-germany.jpg: Clarkson University biomolecular science student Megan Borland '16 visits Meersburg, Germany, during her research assistant internship abroad at the University of Konstanz.

proteinsociety-2015.jpg: From left to right, Clarkson University students Devika Channaveerappa, of Bangalore, India; Megan Borland, of Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Kelly Wormwood, of Lowville, N.Y., attended the protein society annual symposium in Barcelona, Spain.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/mborland-germany.jpg and http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/proteinsociety-2015.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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