Students find home in lab

Sophomore Michael Uecker (left) and junior Hannah Wu have been researching axolotls in Lyon’s biology lab this summer.

BATESVILLE — Sophomore Michael Uecker and junior Hannah Wu have been researching axolotls in Lyon’s biology lab this summer.

A Lyon student feels at home in the biology lab after his first undergraduate research experience.

Sophomore Michael Uecker, of Brockwell, has been working with Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones to research osmoregulation in Ambystoma mexicanum, also known as the Mexican axolotl.

Uecker said osmoregulation is essentially the maintenance of an organism’s salt and water balance.

“For example, in humans, the kidney is the main osmoregulatory organ,” he said, “but organs like the skin and intestine are also utilized.”

Uecker and Jones are looking into proteins expressed in different osmoregulatory organs by sampling the axolotls’ kidneys, skin, gills, lungs and intestine. They use a device called a microtome to take very thin samples of an organism’s organs and put them on microscope slides to examine.

They are also doing immunostaining on the slides to determine whether certain proteins are expressed in different tissues and find out their exact localization, allowing them to get a better picture of the mechanisms of osmoregulation in these organs.

Uecker is thrilled to be working on his first undergraduate research project.

“Typically, most students don’t get to do research the summer after their freshman year, so I was very excited that Dr. Jones extended the invitation.”

He continued, “It feels great to be involved in the research and getting to come in every day and learn.”

His Biology 112 course with Jones prepared him for some of the dissections and general knowledge of anatomy and structure when researching axolotls.

“The research I am doing now will also help me tremendously in my courses moving forward,” Uecker said. “The project has many facets that I think have definitely given me an edge in my classes to come, like Cell Biology, Ecology and Organic Chemistry.”

While he was nervous the first day in the lab, the research experience has exceeded his expectations.

“Put simply, the lab is my happy place,” Uecker said. “I am constantly learning something new and having fun while I am doing it.”

He will stay on the project throughout the 2020-21 school year and plans to continue to do research.

Uecker hopes to one day enter a double Ph.D./M.D. program where he can combine medicine and research.