Research partners benefit from working with professor

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    Ryland Bradley, left, and Margo Pray with their mentor Dr. Sue Edwards.

Dr. Sue Edwards uses “brilliant” and “stellar” to describe research students Margo Pray and Ryland Bradley who took a lead role in working on her molecular biology research funded by the National Science Foundation.

“I could not do my work without them. They’re incredibly diligent and conscientious,” said the biology professor, who studies the molecular evolution of metabolic waste removal. She supervises seven undergraduates and two graduate students to help with this project and others in her lab.

“Appalachian is known at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its quality training of undergraduate researchers, and the NSF follows up with me on how our undergraduates are doing,” Edwards said.

Pray and Bradley were among 29 students from Appalachian selected to present at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research this past spring.

Pray presented research on the activity of a particular protein found in both hagfish and humans. Bradley presented her work on proteins found during the various life cycles of lamprey, a vertebrate relative of the more primitive hagfish.

“It’s a great opportunity to do research as an undergraduate. I think it sets me apart. I’ve learned a lot and these skills will be transferrable,” said Bradley, an exercise science major from Fayetteville. She graduates in August.

“We’re learning from each other in the lab, as well as from Dr. Edwards,” said Pray, a biology/pre-med major from Greensboro who graduates in 2013. “With research you have to problem solve, take initiative – it’s active learning. The result is I can understand molecular biology so much better because of what I’m doing in her lab.”

Both Honors College students, Bradley and Pray are studying abroad in South Africa this summer for a clinical internship. As soon as they return, they will spend a month in Maine conducting hagfish research with Edwards at the internationally recognized Mount Desert Island Biological Lab.

Bradley approached Edwards’ about joining her research team after taking Edwards’ physiology course. Having worked alongside Edwards for two years now, she said she has “gained a mentor and a friend. She’s really busy but she still makes time for us.”

Pray got to know Edwards during a study abroad program to Australia the summer after her freshman year. “My experience proves one of the best things about Appalachian: that you can have close, personal relationships with professors and that really benefits your education,” she said.

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