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Bruce Yazejian, assistant professor of biological sciences, and junior Samantha Galloway, a biological sciences and medical sociology double major, dissect zebrafish inner ear cells to isolate them for electrophysiological recordings.

Professor Wins Three-Year NSF Grant to Boost Undergraduate Research

Sept. 14, 2009 --Bruce Yazejian, assistant professor of biological sciences, has won a competitive three-year award from the National Science Foundation to involve undergraduates in original research. Students will study how parts of the inner ear mediate hearing and balance.

The $327,337 award, which began in July, will be used to purchase specialized equipment and supplies and to fund summer stipends for five to seven student researchers, Yazejian says. The award also allows Yazejian to send several students to national conferences, including the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego in 2010, to present their research findings.

"The best part of this is that I'm able to get students involved in research so they can be excited about science," Yazejian says. "Hearing in a lecture about how science is done can't compare to the fun of doing it. As a plus, students get paid during the summer to work on the project."

Yazejian's students are using the zebrafish to examine how hearing and balance in vertebrates are reliant on the electrical activity of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. The project aims to discover the role the genome plays in controlling the activity of these cells. The research is designed to provide a much-needed investigation of the biophysical properties of hair cells in a model species -- the zebrafish -- that is ideally suited to genetic manipulation and analysis.

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