7 August 2012

Publishing research results in specialist journals is something to which many scientists strive, but that few undergraduate students accomplish.

But this is exactly what two students are about to achieve, following a 10-week research project at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at The University of Queensland.

Jennifer Campbell and Roslinda Mohamed are co-authors of a paper about protein levels in saliva, set to be published in the journal Clinical and Translational Medicine.

The two students joined AIBN’s Summer Research Scholarship Program, working in the Tissue Engineering and Microfluidics (TEAM) Laboratory alongside supervisor Dr Chamindie Punyadeera.

They collected saliva from healthy volunteers, using a range of methods, and looked for biomarkers that could point to a risk of heart disease.

“We found the way you stimulate drool doesn’t affect the level of certain biomarkers, especially the marker used for heart patients,” Jessica said.

“This means doctors can use stimulation in patients who have trouble producing saliva without it affecting protein levels.”

Mechanical and acid stimulation was used to collect the saliva from some of the volunteers, while allowing others to donate whole mouth saliva “drool” without stimulation.

The students then compared the protein levels in saliva and found that for some protein measurements in saliva, the way in which the samples were collected had an effect.

The students said they were pleasantly surprised by how much they learned about lab techniques, protocols and the range of research possibilities.

“We are in awe. It has been such a fruitful summer. We have acquired many skills applicable in clinical settings and have been trained to use cutting-edge equipment and technologies.”

The time in the lab also re-affirmed a passion for science and research.

Jessica has been accepted to study biomedical engineering in a masters program at the University of Oxford in the UK.

Following graduation from UQ, Roslinda has continued studies in microbial biotechnology as part of her Masters in Saudi Arabia.

The Summer Research Scholarship Program allows undergraduate students to experience life in an AIBN lab, gaining skills for careers in engineering, chemistry and biology.

The 23 students involved in the 2011-12 program worked on projects, investigating the behaviour of cancer cells, screening medical candidates for a number of diseases, developing catalysts for eliminating pollution in cars and designed a needle-free vaccine delivery system.
Media: Erik de Wit (0427 281 466, 3346 3962 or e.dewit@uq.edu.au)