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GU Participates in UI’s FUTURE Program


August 12, 2013

Graceland University student Chris Chambers ’14 and assistant professor of biology Dr. Mary Shawgo worked in the lab of University of Iowa researcher John Kirby this summer, studying genetic regulation of microbial communities by a biofilm destroyer.

Graceland University is one of six colleges participating in the FUTURE (Fostering Undergraduate Talent – Uniting Research and Education) in Biomedicine program at the UI. Now in its fifth year, the program pairs faculty from Iowa’s primarily undergraduate institutions with UI biomedical scientists in summer-long research collaborations and has created a network of long-term research and learning partnerships that extends to all corners of the state. This is the second time Graceland has participated in the FUTURE program.

Reflecting on her experience participating in the FUTURE in Biomedicine program, Dr. Shawgo remarked, “The program is very comprehensive. It has allowed me to make great connections with the University of Iowa and faculty from other small Iowa universities as well as strengthen my scientific background.  We have made plans to continue the project both here at the University of Iowa and at Graceland University.

“Bringing a student with me this summer has enabled me to bring the project back. Side by side, we have learned the techniques and essential background information to continue our project at Graceland. My student not only learned laboratory techniques but more importantly has learned about conducting quality scientific research.  Back home, Chris will be able to help me resume the project earlier than if I had only myself. This will allow my senior research students to have the opportunity to work on a collaborative effort that has the potential to be published and/or presented at a scientific meeting. These connections also include faculty from small universities that teach similar classes. We have discussed problems, brainstormed ideas and compared lesson plans to improve the way we teach.”

The FUTURE program was Chris Chambers’ first experience conducting lab research. At first, Chris said, “I was a little intimidated because I didn’t know what to expect. But upon arriving, Dr. Kirby and the members of his microbiology lab welcomed Dr. Shawgo and me and very thoroughly explained the premise of our experiment and the procedures involved. In addition, I gleaned a large amount of information about graduate schools, experimental design, and research as both an educational and professional pathway.

“One of the primary objectives of the FUTURE in Biomedicine program is to develop a connection between the University of Iowa and smaller institutions, such as Graceland, which may only have access to rudimentary research facilities. For my experience particularly, this has been accomplished. The research I conducted this summer is to be part of a larger collaborative effort between Dr. Kirby’s lab and GU. This will allow students, such as myself, to become more familiar with experimental design and microbiological laboratory techniques in a way that feels more meaningful than simple lab drills. This will lead to a greater integration of basic scientific education and real-world applications.

 “To me, this experience has helped to solidify a commitment to scientific exploration. My eyes have been opened to both graduate school and medical school possibilities. While my future remains unclear as to my exact educational pathway, I know that that it will involve research and, hopefully, innovation.”

 For more information on the FUTURE in Biomedicine Program at UI, click here: (







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