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Bethel Students Present Research at State Capitol

Bethel Students Present Research at State Capitol

Assistant Professor of Biokinetics Kelly Gibas, Kaitlyn Dahlgren ’18, and Hannah Manion ’18 presented their research during Scholars Day at the Capitol in February. (Photo Credit: Stephen Geffre for the Minnesota Private College Council)

Biokinetics student Kaitlyn Dahlgren ’18 stood next to a poster on February 21 in the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda eager to talk about the effect of nutritional ketosis on the treatment of mild cognitive impairment. She was one of two Bethel University seniors selected to present their research during Scholars Day at the Capitol, an annual event organized by the Minnesota Private College Council. Dahlgren stood with her faculty advisor Kelly Gibas, assistant professor of biokinetics, but she was the one who answered questions as people stopped to read about her research.

“I really enjoyed—more than I thought I would—presenting to the legislators and fellow undergraduates,” Dahlgren says. “It was cool to see how the research that I had done was applicable to the people I was talking to. Many got really engaged in what I was talking about and brought in their own experience with memory difficulties.”

In her research, Dahlgren worked with a 57-year old-patient who presented with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), or a cluster of conditions—increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels—that increase a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Dahlgren put the patient volunteer on a ketogenic diet, or a diet high in fat and lower in carbohydrates. She combined the diet with an exercise program and daily memory training. “At the end of the 12 weeks, the patient had reversed both the MCI and MetS diagnosis indicating that this diet intervention resulted in improved cognitive functioning,” explains Dahlgren.

Hannah Manion ’18, a biology and Spanish double major, joined Dahlgren in presenting at the Capitol. “The Capitol proved to be a very unique location to present, because every audience came with a different knowledge basis of biology,” Manion explains. “It was interesting and good practice to tailor my presentation to my audience's understanding and what I felt they might be interested in.”

Manion has worked with Professor of Biology Joyce Doan to determine if resveratrol—an aromatic phytoalexin found in berries, grapes, and red wine—can protect NIH3T3 cells against TNF𝞪, a cell protein that perpetuates inflammation. To figure it out, the student-faculty research team measured cell death when RSV was and was not present in the cell environment, Manion explains. “While this is still a preliminary study, we hope this data will add to our knowledge of the workings of inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) by preventing a similar mechanism of TNF𝞪 uptake that perpetuates RA,” Manion says.

One of the purposes of Scholars Day at the Capitol is to showcase research at Minnesota’s private colleges and universities to Minnesota legislators and emphasize the value of college today. That was the easy part for Dalhgren and Manion.

“There is so much value in a college degree, not only in academic knowledge gains, but also in accumulating important life skills,” says Dahlgren. “At a private university in particular, I think I have gotten opportunities that many other students would not have had in undergrad. The relationships that you get with professors at Bethel is something that I have found a lot of value in.” After she graduates, Dalhgren will head to graduate school with a background in direct patient care and research, plus well-rounded knowledge and skills that will set her apart from others.

Manion agrees that her college experience has definitely been worth it. “Not only did my college experience teach me the knowledge I needed to pursue a career in medicine, it has also provided me with opportunities to gain real-world experience in both medicine and biology that I would not otherwise have had,” she says. “Finally, having this experience in a Christian environment has given me the opportunity to learn with others who share similar core values and has reminded me that faith can exist in every aspect of our lives.”