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One Minute With a Researcher

The Office for Research is proud to present our YouTube series  "One Minute with a Researcher" where researchers across campus provide insight into their areas of study.


Research in the News:

Stories Behind the Science: Leaving the Fear Behind to Pursue Greatness

Berenice Sosa Aispuro, a sophomore at Idaho State University double majoring in nuclear and mechanical engineering, is not someone unfamiliar with challenges. At one and a half years old, Sosa Aispuro landed in Weiser, Idaho after her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. Growing up in Weiser, Sosa Aispuro experienced a variety of interactions both positive and negative. 

The adversity she met led her to a high school club called Future Hispanic Leaders of America (FHLA). Through FHLA, Sosa Aispruo attended an ISU-hosted Healthcare and Technology conference technology portion. “They talked about the different types of engineering, what you can do with engineering, and I became fascinated. And I was like, this is way better than what I had ever wanted to do before,” said Sosa Aispuro. 

Overcoming her DACA status and being a first-generation student, she got the assistance she needed to get an application in to ISU. Due to COVID-19, she decided to retake an engineering course, where she then met Dr. Mustafa Mushal. With no engineering experience, she applied for an undergraduate research assistant position in Dr. Mushal’s civil and environmental engineering lab and was accepted.

Sosa Aispuro now helps graduate students in the lab study the differences in durability between precast concrete and cast in place concrete. “For example...a concrete bridge. A lot of times we'll see a bridge construction, and see cast in place, which is [when] they'll put the concrete in as they're building. It's like a build as you go type of thing.” Cast in place concrete is the more traditional approach to building with concrete, whereas precast concrete is a newer, more sustainable.

Sosa Aispuro has defied the odds as an immigrant and a first generation college student, pushing past the expectations of those around her to follow her passion. She plans on getting her Ph.D. one day and continuing research in renewable energy. 

Stories behind the science: Breaking barriers 

Excerpts from full article - While taking a microbiology course at ISU, Hannah Aken became enamored with living creatures we cannot see with the naked eye- microbes.

“There's these little things, but you can't see them. You can't feel them, but they make you totally sick. They can kill you. They can ruin the ecosystem, they can mess with anything in our daily lives.” she said.

In the summer of 2019, Aken was accepted as a fellow into the Idaho Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

During the program, Aken studied the pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae under Dr. Julia Martin at ISU. S. pneumoniae is a bacterium that in minor situations, causes an ear infection, but can be as severe as pneumonia and meningitis. Hannah specifically looked at the effects of magnesium, a transition metal, on the capsule of the bacterium. Magnesium has been found to be a structural component of the capsule. “The capsule is an outer coating that the bacterium forms in order to protect itself from being killed from the host's immune system,” she explains, “and so [the capsule is]  harmful for us, because then it lets the bacteria live longer in our body.” By looking at how different quantities of magnesium impact capsule growth, Aken was able to determine that the more magnesium the bacteria had access to, the thicker the capsule. After 10 weeks of pipetting samples, growing cells, and performing assays, Hannah’s skills and confidence grew and her passion for microbiology was solidified.

Aken has since completed a second research internship and has presented at five different conferences across the U.S.

Bruce Finney, Biological Sciences and Geosciences faculty, and colleagues publish results of stable isotope analysis of human remains revealing diet of ancient Beringian people [Alaska]

The earliest Native Americans have often been portrayed as either megafaunal specialists or generalist foragers, but this debate cannot be resolved by studying the faunal record alone. Stable isotope analysis performed by Bruce Finney of Idaho State University along with the analysis of the multi-disciplinary team, directly reveals the foods consumed by individuals. The journal article, Ancient Beringian paleodiets revealed through multiproxy stable isotope analyses, presents multi-tissue isotope analyses of two Ancient Beringian infants from the Upward Sun River site (USR), Alaska (~11,500 years ago).

Models of fetal bone turnover combined with seasonally-sensitive taxa show that the carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of USR infant bone collagen reflects maternal diets over the summer. Using comparative faunal isotope data, the multi-institutional team demonstrates that although terrestrial sources dominated maternal diets, salmon was also important, supported by carbon isotope analysis of essential amino acids and bone bioapatite. Tooth enamel samples indicate increased salmon use between spring and summer. The results do not support either strictly megafaunal specialists or generalized foragers but indicate that Ancient Beringian diets were complex and seasonally structured.

These stable isotope-based paleodiet models provide unique windows into the diets of two Ancient Beringian women over a single spring and summer period 11,500 years ago, providing a link between the broad-scale subsistence patterns observed in the archaeological record over millennia and the short-term foraging decisions made by individuals.

These results are published in the American Academy of Sciences journal ScienceAdvances September 2020 issue.