• |
Header Banner

Logan Elkin ’23, who is undertaking a collaborative research project on parasites in fish, working in the lab of biologist Michael Kent (Oregon State University, Corvallis) during a research opportunity earlier this summer.

Major Academic Conference Brings Midwest Parasitologists to St. Norbert

St. Norbert plays host to a major scientific convention later this month with the arrival on campus of the 72nd Annual Midwestern Conference of Parasitologists (AMCOP), a regional affiliate of the American Society of Parasitologists.

It has been six years since AMCOP was held in Wisconsin. “We’ve had the conference in pretty much every Midwest state, but it’s the first time for St. Norbert,” says AMCOP program officer Anindo Choudhury (Biology). “We’re very excited.” The conference venue for the in-person event is the college’s state-of-the-art Gehl-Mulva Science Center.

The July 29-31 gathering of around 50 parasitologists and students of parasitology provides informal discussion of research and teaching in parasitology, and the advancement of the best interests of the discipline. 

“It’s a very well-connected but very broad community of scholars in parasitology,” says Choudhury. “The fact that we’re just coming out of COVID-19 and the restrictions … . This is actually quite a sizeable number of participants.”

Presenters include SNC undergraduates Logan Elkin ’23 and Will Butak ’23, who will be getting their first opportunity at sharing original research with established scientists and scholars in their field.

Presenting parasite primers
SNC lab partners Elkin and Butak wrote a collaborative student-faculty research grant to procure funding for their spring 2021 semester project, and they'll be joining their more seasoned scientific colleagues in presenting their results at AMCOP.

“We tested a new group of barcode primers for targeting a parasite gene,” explains Elkin. “Not literally a barcode, but the general idea is that it targets a short sequence of DNA that can instantly identify different types of species. They’re really useful and save resources!”

Choudhury says, “It was a lot of work, but they got good results. I think it’s going to be very interesting, because one of the researchers who’s going to be there from the University of North Dakota is actually one of the world’s leading experts on this sort of barcoding. So Logan and Will both will have a chance of interacting with him. He’s a good friend and colleague of mine, so I’m hoping he won’t give them too much of a hard time!” 

A campus effort
Choudhury credits the college for its ability to host a significant scientific event. “The college’s lead conference coordinator, Sue LaLuzerne, has been amazing, and our event services staff has been absolutely magnificent.” says Choudhury. 

AMCOP secretary and treasurer Robert Sorensen, professor in the biological sciences department at Minnesota State University Mankato, echoes this appreciation for the college’s collaborative efforts and the helpfulness of all associated offices.

“I’ve been a member of AMCOP since I was a graduate student in the 90s,” he says. “This year’s meeting is especially meaningful because it’s the first in-person professional meeting I’m attending since social-distancing requirements were put in place due to COVID-19. Professional meetings like AMCOP have always been important to me as a way to connect with others in this field of study. They provide a welcome opportunity for me to learn – and for me to help the professional growth of others.

“SNC’s Event Services was very prompt and thorough in putting together plans for all aspects of the meeting,” says Sorensen. “It’s obvious that they’re invested in limiting COVID-19 transmission risk, and that they’re sensitive to special dietary needs that can be associated with serving a diverse group. I also observed that other offices have been very generous in providing funding or services associated with hosting this event.

“I have the utmost respect for Anindo’s work as a parasitologist and the training he provides to students who are involved in research with him,” says Sorenson. “With this year’s meeting being on his home campus, I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about St. Norbert College and to see the spaces where he teaches and does research. From pictures, the campus looks like a beautiful place; I’m looking forward to spending some time there to learn more about the campus and the part of Wisconsin where it’s located.”

In addition to providing a forum for its scholars, AMCOP confers three major awards for student participants during its annual meeting.

July 15, 2021