Yotes shine at Idaho INBRE conference

This summer, 10 College of Idaho students and several professors joined representatives from 10 other Idaho institutions to take part in the 2016 Idaho INBRE Statewide Research Conference. The conference, held in Moscow, featured posters, pictures and presentations on the latest biomedical research.

And of the 15 awards given out, C of I students snagged four.

“Our students performed so well, especially considering the competitive pool of presenters,” said C of I biology Professor Mark Gunderson. “The INBRE conference is a great opportunity for our students, not only to showcase the research they did all summer, but also to really be able to digest and understand their own work and relay that information to others.”

C of I senior Frank Gigray took home first prize in “Fast Pitch Science,” where he had one slide and three minutes to summarize his work with Dr. John Thurston on trying to make antibiotics work better. While other competitors tried to explain as much about their research in those three minutes, Gigray took a different approach.

“I talked about [my research] within a metaphor,” the chemistry and philosophy double major said. “I’ve recently been playing a lot of the video game Medal Gear Solid 5. In it, there is an espionage element to disrupt communications. It was similar with the science I was doing, and the comparison fell together.”

Gigray also took second in “Undergraduate Research Student Choice.” For him, the best part of the conference was seeing all the biomedical research happening in Idaho. Fellow C of I students João Vieira and Hailey Chambers tied for third in the “Undergraduate Research Faculty Choice” category.

“I was not expecting [to get an award]…we had about 85 posters at the conference, and the fact that Hailey and I got third place—it’s cool to think that we stood out so much to the professors,” Vieira said.

Vieira spent the summer researching the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma in the lab of Professor Luke Daniels. The INBRE conference allowed Vieira, who wants to study neurobiology, to go more in-depth on a project than he could in the classroom and expand his biology knowledge. It also further pushed his personal growth, as he fought through nerves while presenting.

Chambers, who works with Professor Sara Heggland in studying how e-cigarettes affect bone health, was equally surprised to receive the award. The senior biology major, who plays on the C of I softball team, applied to 10 medical schools this summer. Having research experience was a nice addition to her resume as she pursues her dream of becoming a doctor.

“Having that kind of experience is huge,” she said. “And being able to have that scientific experience outside the classroom was really important.”

The biggest thing she learned was how much can go wrong during research, and how much time is spent troubleshooting problems. The slightest tweaks to a project can have major impacts on your work, she said.

Overall, the conference provided C of I students the chance talk about their research and receive feedback, as well as network with fellow biomedical researchers. Winning a few awards was the icing on the cake.

“It definitely made the drive back a little sweeter,” Gigray said. “And helped pay the bills.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit