TEA Explorer

I first heard about the TEA program while I was attending a retreat for Summer Research Teachers, a program sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), in which teachers work with a host researcher in their area of expertise. My host researcher, Dr. David Petzel, and I designed an experiment that could be done in a high school physiology course. We then conducted the experiment at Creighton University and are in the process of submitting a paper to a scientific journal. I also presented a poster at the Experimental Biology Meeting in April. I feel that my research has been an invaluable experience, and would encourage all science teachers to parcticipate in research (via the APS program, or simply by contacting a University in their area).

Last year, after teaching for 13 years, I decided to take a leave of absence to have more time with our boys, since our youngest was starting school. Because I enjoyed my research experience so much, I am now working on a Masters Degree in the same lab! Taking classes and working in the lab allows me the freedom to spend more time with my family. Prior to my leave of absence, I enjoyed teaching Human Physiology and Chemistry to 10-12 graders at Millard North High School, a suburban school district in Omaha, Nebraska.

My Master's degree project is a sideline of the research being done by Dr. David Petzel, Dr. David Smith, Sierra Guynn, and Ed Wren (doctoral students) all from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. The research team is studying one of the unique adaptations allowing Antarctic fish to survive in sea water nearing its freezing point of 19 oC. Fish of the family Notothenioid, have an elevated serum osmolality (nearly double the serum osmolality of temperate marine fish) that helps to lower the freezing point or their blood. Osmolality is regulated primarily by chloride cells in the gills, which contain the enzyme Na/K-ATPase. This enzyme uses energy from ATP to drive ion (NA+ and Cl-) transport and maintain the increased serum osmolality.

Temperate fish must use large quantities of ATP in order for Na/K- ATPase to "pump" ions out of their blood back into the sea. The elevated serum osmolality of Antarctic fish helps them to conserve energy by lowering the amount of energy required to maintain the osmotic gradient between the internal and external environments, compared to temperate marine fish. Dr. Petzel and his team are looking at the role of the chloride cells and hormones in regulating the activity of Na/K- ATPase in these fish. Insulin is one hormone known to affect the activity of Na/K ATPase. I have been isolating and purifying insulin from the Brockman bodies (pancreas-like tissue) of fish caught last year. Upon reaching Antarctica, I hope to test its physiological properties by injecting the purified insulin into fish made diabetic using a drug called Streptozotocin.

October 1998

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September 1998

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