Students and prof to present research

Three Northwestern College students and biology professor Dr. Sara Sybesma Tolsma will present their respective research projects at the Iowa Academy of Science’s 125th annual meeting on April 19 and 20 at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.

Tolsma will present her research, “The Effects of Chocolate on Exercise Benefits in Rats.” A number of studies have found that epicatechin, a component of cocoa, enhanced the exercise benefits of skeletal muscle in mice. Tolsma’s research was based on the hypothesis that dark chocolate, which is composed of 90 percent cacao, would produce similar results in rats.

Assisting Tolsma on her project were senior biology health profession majors and honors research students Garrett Sterk and Daniel Van Kalsbeek. Sterk, of McBain, Mich., and Van Kalsbeek, of Sheldon, Iowa, studied four groups of rats. The first group was fed dark chocolate; the second group underwent a 30-day swimming regime; the third group ate dark chocolate and swam; and the fourth group acted as their control, which was left untreated. The muscles were dissected and stained to determine capillary density. They performed Western blot analysis on skeletal muscle tissue to measure the levels of proteins implicated in new blood vessel growth and mitochondrial numbers.

Also presenting at the annual meeting will be Andrea Hallberg, a senior biology health professions major from Vinton, Iowa. Hallberg’s honors research project, “Diagnosing and Evaluation the Presence of MRSA on a Northwest Iowa College Campus,” was conducted with Dr. Elizabeth Heeg-Truesdell, associate professor of biology at Northwestern.  

The goal of Hallberg’s research was to detect methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the presence of athletic students versus non-athletes on Northwestern’s campus. She used nasal cultures and polymerase chain reaction tests to collect data.