Undergraduate Research

Historically, undergraduate research has been an important component of our program since its inception. The involvement of students and faculty in undergraduate research has markedly increased, with the support of the university. Our faculty's approach to research is to engage students in the process of conducting science, not by telling students what to do to complete some project designed by someone else, but by mentoring them through the process of understanding a topic., then designing and conducting the research necessary to explain something about that topic.

Students engaged in our research program do so by enrolling in a one, two, or three credit hour course with the prefix MSCI (i.e.,MSCI 4103, MCI 4203, MCI 4303). In many instances students continue their project across two or more semesters and write a thesis, and several programs encourage this path for students planning on graduate or professional school, but it is not required.

The major topic areas currently available to students include:

  1. Nature Conservancy wildlife projects, bird banding, ecology of Western Screech Owls, Bobcat ecology and home range, grassland bird conservation ecology in Ag and CRP fields, playa  invertebrates, and nesting ecology of shrub-nesting birds in Caprock Canyons and vicinity.
  2. Functionality of  enzyme systems
  3. The effects of social interaction on salt addiction
  4. The effect of oral-pharyngeal and digestive afferences on the onset of spontaneous salt intake enhancement

In addition to independent projects undertaken with appropriate faculty, our School also stresses application of the scientific method in the course-level projects across our curriculum. For example, students in general botany, ecology, environmental sciences, conservation biology, and invertebrate biology have all conducted semester long projects resulting in poster presentations at our local Spring Research Day, and other scientific meetings (i.e., Texas Academy of Science, Biological Symposium at TTU, and Texas Medical Association Meeting).


Recent Abstracts Presented by WBU Biology Students

"Salt addiction is gender specific in satisfied athletes: Male athlete displays signs of salt addiction while female athlete avoids salty foods”. Robinson, S.; Phillips., W.; Derderian, D. School of Mathematics and Sciences, Wayland Baptist University, Plainview, TX, USA.

Increased salty food is seen in sodium-depleted human. Vigorous physical activities cause sodium depletion. Thus, we investigated if WBU athletes crave more salt rich foods than non-athletes. Four hundred ninety-one healthy college student volunteers completed a food survey. Pleasantness of twenty-nine foods was ranked from 0 (not pleasant) to 10 (extremely pleasant). Subjects endorsing either satiety (0-4 answer in a 0-10 scale) or hunger (5-10 answer) were divided by gender into two groups, athlete and non-athlete. Data was analyzed based on ranked food pleasantness and salt content (high, intermediate, or low). Satisfied female athletes [n=38] showed a decreased preference for ham (4±1*), bacon (5±1*), and peanut butter (6±1*) versus non-athletes (6±0, 7±0, 7±0, respectively) [n=104, *p<0.05]. Hungry female athletes [n=34] showed decreased preference for pickles (5±1*), peanut butter (6±1*), salad (6±0*), milk (5±1*), celery (3±1*), and carrots (5±1*) versus non-athlete (6±0, 7±0, 8±0, 7±0, 5±0 and 7±0, respectively) [n=49]. Satisfied male athletes [n=69] have an increased preference for ham (8±0*) and spaghetti (8±0*) versus non-athlete [n=61] (6±0 and 7±0, respectively). The male hungry athlete [n=80] has an increased preference for rice (7±0*) and orange (8±0*) versus non-athlete [n=41] (6±0 and 7±0), respectively). Results suggest that the satisfied and hungry female athlete avoids salty foods; the satisfied male athlete preferred salty foods; and the hungry male athlete craved foods rich in polysaccharide, protein, and vitamin C.


“Winter habitat occupancy by longspur (Calcarius Spp.) and other grassland birds, in Hale and Floyd County, Texas”. Bruggink, L. School of Mathematics and Sciences, Wayland Baptist University, Plainview, TX, USA.

Longspur species (Calcarius Spp.) populations are declining from habitat loss, however, there is no current literature on these species’ wintering habitat associations. Understanding their wintering habitat would help the overall conservation efforts for this species. From December 2014-March 2015, 6 roadside point-count surveys were conducted at 20 sample points to determine the presence and habitat associations of longspurs and other grassland species in the agricultural landscape of Hale and Floyd counties, Texas. Preliminary results, show that sites with at least two categories of habitat heterogeneity have higher occupancy of longspurs than sites having only crop fields surrounding them. Presence and abundance of individual longspur species varied over the winter season. Finally, there does not appear to be any correlation between site characteristics and occupancy of other grassland bird species recorded.


“Purification of components from Inula hilinium (elecampane) which are cytotoxic to the 4T1 murine breast cancer cell line”. McElwain, T.E.; Kelly, S.C.; Rivera, A.M.; Kenneson, J.R.; McCutcheon, R.T.; Gray, G.O.; Reinhart, A.J.School of Mathematics and Sciences, Wayland Baptist University, Plainview, TX, USA.

The plant Inula hilinium (elecampane), is a medicinal plant that is found widely throughout England. It has been used as a diuretic, antiseptic, skin cream and has been used in treating pulmonary diseases. Previous studies in our laboratory have shown elecampane to be toxic to 4T1 murine breast cancer cells. Powdered elecampane root powder was refluxed in dichlorlomethane for 1 hour, the dichloromethane was distilled off and the extract was resuspended in ethanol. The resulting ethanolic extract was size fractionated on a Sephadex LH20 column with 75% ethanol as the mobile phase and initially analyzed through absorbencies at 280nm. Fractions from the column were assayed for cytotoxic effects on 4T1 cells. Cytotoxic fractions were further characterized using HPLC (solid phase: C18, mobile phase: 0-75% methanol gradient over 30 minutes). One peak was identified through HPLC from the most cytotoxic fraction. This peak was collected and further characterized using mass spectroscopic analysis (MALDI TOF). Based on the mass spectroscopic analysis, the most likely size of the cytotoxic molecule isolated through this study was determined to be 440g/mol. Further research is ongoing to identify this cytotoxic component of elecampane. Also planned is the use of soil analysis of the area to more effectively define the relationship between precipitation and lake fluctuations while considering lake bottom infiltration.