NSF Funds Student’s Research on Eco-Friendly Fish Bait

HIGH POINT, N.C., July 18, 2016 – Jordan Krisfalusi-Gannon, a rising sophomore at High Point University, is assisting scientists in perfecting sustainable fish bait that could bring substantial environmental and economic benefits. As a research intern at Kepley BioSystems Inc., a life sciences company in Greensboro, Gannon is part of a unique summer research program that allows her to solve a relevant scientific issue while gaining experience in a professional laboratory.

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From left to right are HPU student Jordan Krisfalusi-Gannon; Lee Robertson, research assistant at Kepley BioSystems; Dr. Anthony Dellinger, president of Kepley BioSystems; and Waleed Ali, a research scholar from Columbia University examining OrganoBait, one of the company’s products designed to be used as fish bait in place of forage fish.

A biology major from Elgin, Illinois, Gannon was selected and funded for this opportunity through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates. Through the program, she conducts research with Dr. Anthony Dellinger, Kepley BioSystems president, in the labs at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

“Jordan’s hard work and scholarship applied to advancing the science of our marine technology has been noteworthy,” says Dellinger. “Our team has been thoroughly impressed with the pedigree of students at HPU, especially from such a young scientist like Jordan.”

Gannon is helping the company improve the composition of one of its products, OrganoBait. This is synthetic bait that can be used in the ocean in place of the “forage” fish typically used by fishermen as bait.

“Recently, there has been a large reduction in the population of fish conventionally used as bait due to the rising popularity of fish oil, Omega-3 products, and their use in barnyard animal feed and pet food,” says Gannon. “This has resulted in a spike in the cost of bait and a loss of profit for crustacean fishermen.”

The dissolvable bait, which is about the size of a hockey puck, also helps with conservation efforts by keeping dolphins, seals and others out of fishermen’s nets and supports the food supply of sea animals.

“This opportunity has allowed me to meaningfully contribute to a local, emerging, high-tech life science company,” says Gannon. “I’ve gained research experience in the fields of ecology, biology and analytical chemistry. I’ve trained on numerous types of cutting-edge instrumentation. This experience has provided valuable training I will use for the rest of my life.”

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Gannon, pictured conducting research with Dellinger (left), was selected and funded for this opportunity through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Dr. Kristen Bowey, lab manager in the biology department at HPU, helped Gannon connect with the research program. She says this is an especially unique opportunity. Very few students around the country are invited to participate in such research.

“Programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation provide highly motivated and bright undergraduate students like Jordan the opportunity to conduct independent research,” says Bowey. “Jordan will strengthen her technical laboratory skills while also learning about a less common aspect of science – how it relates to business. The work she will do this summer has real-life applications that will make a big difference in the world’s oceans. This experience will no doubt have a significant impact on the rest of her scientific career at High Point University and beyond.”

As she explores career options, Gannon says the internship provides insight into the reality of how researchers work. The experience, she says, is deepening her love of science, which was sparked in Bowey’s class this year.

“The professors at HPU and the lab techniques I have learned there have been instrumental in preparing me for this internship,” says Gannon. “I began college hesitant about my biology major, but having Dr. Bowey as my first biology professor completely changed my mind. Her incredible knowledge of and passion for what she teaches, as well as her amazing dedication to students, instilled in me a deep respect for the scientific field.”

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