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Professor Collaborates with Students for Published Research

Professor Collaborates with Students for Published Research

By Alli Bates ’16

A hallmark of Otterbein is the personal attention students receive from professors. For some, this means professors conduct research and publish papers with undergraduate students, an opportunity that is rare at larger schools.

Professor Jeffrey Lehman, Department of Biology and Earth Science, collaborated with students Stacey Schall ’12 and Danielle O’Callaghan ’14 on research for an article that was accepted in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (volume 35, pages 940-946).  The article which was entitled “Protective Effects of Ascorbic Acid and Alpha Tocopherol on the In vitro Oxidation of Equine Erythrocytes Caused by Extracts of Wilted Red Maple Leaves” was based on Schall’s and O’Callaghan’s undergraduate theses.

“Stacey started the project. She came up with the idea of testing the toxic effect of red maple and asked if I was interested in developing a research question in this area. I had been working on other things but her passion and perseverance convinced me. Stacey’s question dealt with the level of toxicity in leaves of different species of maple, not just red,” said Lehman.

The project utilized many aspects of the Otterbein community, including resources at the Science Center, Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science, and the Otterbein Community Garden, as well as support from Dr. Sheri Birmingham of the Department of Equine Science who is also a co-author on the paper.    

Schall explained the process. “Maple leaves were collected, dried and stored in a freezer. Leaves were ground into a solution to make an extract, which we mixed with equine erythrocytes (horse red blood cells) and incubated for an amount of time. Samples were then centrifuged and the supernatant was removed to be measured in a spectrometer. We used this data to quantify the amount of hemolysis and methemoglobin formation that occurred due to the maple extracts.”

O’Callaghan learned about red maple leaf toxicity in equine class. With Lehman, she expanded the research to include ways to protect horses in high-risk situations using dietary supplementation with vitamins C and E.  O’Callaghan collected blood samples pre- and post-supplementation from horses at Otterbein’s Knowlton Center and determined the response of equine erythrocytes across a 24-week period. 

“I got started with this project through the biology honors program. A research project was a requirement for graduation, which I knew about when I chose to come to Otterbein and was one of my reasons to attend. I chose Dr. Lehman simply because I like his attitude toward teaching,” said O’Callaghan.

“As generic as it is, I really learned not to take anything for granted in opportunities I am presented with.  When I started this project and worked through writing it into an honor’s thesis, I didn’t realize just how special my project was, and I had absolutely no aspirations at submitting it for publication,” said O’Callaghan.

Since graduating, both O’Callaghan and Schall have been busy with their careers.

“Immediately after graduating from Otterbein, I went to work at a small animal hospital as a full-time veterinary assistant as I waited to get into vet school, and I am so glad that I did.  I was able to learn aspects of practice that I would have missed if I had gone straight in,” said O’Callaghan.

In that year, Lehman and O’Callaghan worked on getting the paper published. She is now continuing her education at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Veterinary Medicine.

Schall continued to conduct research and furthered her education.

“After graduating from Otterbein in 2010, I accepted a position as a logistic technician for The Cancer Genome Atlas Project (TCGA) in the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Many papers have been published using our data, including one in Nature,” said Schall.

In 2014, she earned her Master’s of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) and she is currently working as a physician assistant in emergency medicine at OSU Hospital East.

Find out how Otterbein students are able to do hands-on research their very first year on the Five Cardinal Experiences website.

Learn more about Otterbein’s Department of Biology and Earth Science.