Missouri State University
Biology Blog

Biology awards Outstanding Graduating Senior

Every year the biology department gives out an award to the Outstanding Graduating Senior. With a number of great candidates, this year there was a tie: Brian Blankenship and Tanner Hoog were given this honor, and they certainly deserved it.


Blankenship earned this award for his heavy involvement in and out of the lab. According to his undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Paul Durham, “Brian has worked as the equivalent of a second year graduate student for the past year in the lab – even though he is a senior undergraduate.”

Blankenship has also worked on ensuring other students are as prepared as he is by sharing his knowledge about  cryosectioning, immunostaining, microscopy and behavioral studies.

Though his time-consuming family commitments may have deterred others, he still worked diligently in the lab as well as academically, even volunteering to come in on weekends to assist with experiments.

Blankenship currently has been awarded pre-admission to the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine, where he is a Lester Bryant Scholar.

lab equipment


One of Hoog’s claims to fame is his research grant though the national Tri-Beta Biological honor society. He used this grant to research congenital heart defects in mice in the lab of his undergraduate research advisor, Dr. Ryan Udan.

He was accepted into the SMART summer internship program at Baylor University’s College of Medicine. To be competitive for this opportunity, he taught himself OPT imaging and image processing. He co-wrote a book chapter on lightsheet imaging of mouse embryos and is an excellent problem solver. Angela Plank, a biology lab supervisor comments that one favorite recollection of Hoog is when he was hired for the prep lab: “He was set to report for the first time on a particular day. As it turned out, he was in the hospital (that day) with a collapsed lung but e-mailed me his apology for missing work!” Along with being accomplished, Hoog is courteous!

After his schooling is complete, Hoog plans to attend graduate school and eventually become a professor.

Well done, Brian and Tanner!

Read more about Hoog’s research with congenital heart defects.

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Biology graduate student earns grant money to continue research

Biology graduate student Briana Anderson had a busy semester. Not only has she stayed on top of her graduate course work and been a successful TA, she also applied for and received grants

Briana Bat

this year for the bat research associated with her thesis. This research is investigating the immune function of hibernation bats when they get white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America in the last decade.

Sigma Xi

One of Anderson’s grants is a $1000 Grant-in-Aid of Research from Sigma Xi.  According to her advisor, Dr. Tom Tomasi, only about 15 percent are funded.

American Society of Mammologists

 Another Grant-in-Aid of Research Anderson received comes from the American Society of Mammologists for $1,500. With this competition open to Master’s and PhD students, Anderson rose to the challenge and conquered.

Both grants will be used to purchase lab supplies to collect data on the levels of immune signaling proteins, measurements made in Dr. Chris Lupfer’s laboratory.

Congratulations, Briana! We cannot wait to see what advances you give the world with these grants.

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Cooperate not combat

A bee on a flower

When you hear the word “bug” you might think of a creepy, crawly critter that does more harm than good. Unfortunately, this misconception creates problems for the many insects which do good, including pollinators like butterflies and bees.

“Most kinds of flowering plants are completely dependent on pollination by insects to produce fruit and seeds,” said Dr. Chris Barnhart, distinguished professor of biology at Missouri State University.

“Overuse and unnecessary use of pesticides damages beneficial insect populations and potentially harms human health as well. Besides being beautiful and useful pollinators, insects are essential food for birds and other animals, which people are more inclined to appreciate.”

Dispelling myth

Barnhart is the volunteer curator of the Bill Roston Native Butterfly House at the Springfield Botanical Center. From May to October, volunteers maintain a net house containing plants and native butterflies and moths in all of their life stages.

“One of our central messages at the Butterfly House and the Botanical Center is the importance of insects in the balance of nature,” said Barnhart. “There are many insects that we should welcome and cooperate with as opposed to combatting them.”

Helping butterflies flourish

Butterflies hibernate during the cold months and emerge when temperatures and day length rise in the spring. Some butterflies overwinter further south and migrate north in during this time of year. Both types of butterflies have already been spotted earlier than usual thanks to a mild winter.

“Butterflies are attracted to flowers that provide nectar. But to grow butterflies, we must plant the native host plants, the ones that are food for the caterpillar stage,” said Barnhart. “Each kind of butterfly has particular native host plants that its caterpillars can eat. In that way we produce not only butterflies, but essential bird food as well.”

There are extensive online resources for those interested in helping grow the local butterfly population:

Volunteer training for the Roston Butterfly House is April 22 and 26, with opening day May 12. The 2017 annual Butterfly Festival will be held June 14. For more information on the Roston Butterfly House or to volunteer, contact the Friends of the Garden at 417-874-2952.

For more information, contact Barnhart at 417-836-5166.

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Giving back through nature

Dr. Barnhart with a student

Dr. Chris Barnhart from Missouri State University recently received the Missouri Department of Conservation Outreach and Education 2016 External Partnership Award for his work at the Springfield Nature Center.

At the Nature Center, Barnhart, a distinguished professor of biology, provides lectures and other resources for interpretive programs about insect and pollination biology, endangered species and invasive species.

“I’m very grateful to be part of a community that values wildlife and conservation,” said Barnhart. “The Department of Conservation provides great opportunities for collaboration in research and education.”

Dr. Barnhart with his award
Dr. Barnhart and Joanie Straub, Outreach and Education Division Chief.

Linda Chorice, manager of the Nature Center, had this to say about Barnhart’s contributions:

“We are so happy to have such a great working relationship with Chris. We respect and admire him immensely.”

This isn’t the only award Barnhart has received for his conservation efforts. In 2010 Barnhart received the Collaborator of the Year award from the Department of Conservation, Resource Science Division “for outstanding collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation to further the conservation of freshwater mussels and other natural resources in Missouri.”

For more information, contact Barnhart at 417-836-5166.

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Feeling ferocious facial pain? 

Jaw soreness and facial pain: These symptoms are frequently talked about and diagnosed as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ or TMD). But neurologists and biologists are looking at another painful condition involving the trigeminal nerve: Trigeminal neuralgia (TN).

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