Spotlight on Undergraduate Research — Harun Al-Ansari

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Valencia College has developed an undergraduate research initiative — based on nationally recognized models — that expands opportunities for students to partner meaningfully with faculty members to pursue a specific course of research. As most community colleges only offer undergraduate research as a very small boutique opportunity for a few students, Valencia has become a leader in community college research. Last year, hundreds of Valencia students worked in one or more modalities of research. This is vital for students exploring STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) -related professions through transfer, both to better discern their purpose and pathway, and to have experiences comparable to their peers at the university to which they transfer.

With this initiative underway, we share with you the success of our students’ undergraduate research through a bi-monthly series — Spotlight on Undergraduate Research.

To student Harun Al-Ansari, who is studying biomedical science, research means exploration into the unknown and seeing the physical world’s secrets and operations. And his very first research project a project for IDH (Interdisciplinary Honors) 2911  focused on the possibility of defending against antigens by using concepts of genetic engineering to produce antibodies prior to the encounter of the pathogen.

“I had to develop the research question, which initially started off asking if nanotechnology could cure cancer,” Harun explained. “Given a semester in between IDH 2911 and IDH 2912, I was able to further refine the crude question into the one presented in the project. I had time to also delve into researching the functions of the immune system, specifically the adaptive immune system. I mainly focused on B-cells, the antibody production factories of the immune system.”

Harun shared that the research was tedious, as he had never taken a course in immunology. But he learned a lot on his own through research papers, mostly found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information database, adding to a base of knowledge he had from a biology class he had taken previously.

“For an example, as I did research into the endosteum, a membrane that lines the interior of bone tissue, I wanted to know how it contributed to the priming of hematopoietic stem cells in order to give a more precise story of how the B-cell came to be,” he said. “However, alas, research is still ongoing. This is just one of the many unknowns that comes in the path of research — you simply don’t know exactly everything.”

By completing this research and through the support of his research mentor, Yasser Saad, professor, biology, Harun was able to get a glimpse of the field he aspires to work in, biomedical sciences and biomedical engineering, in which he’ll be continuing his studies. This fall, Harun plans to transfer to Florida A&M University to pursue his bachelor’s degree.

Harun was also one of our 3rd place winners in the Fall 2019 Poster Showcase.

To nominate a student doing great undergraduate research or for questions about Valencia’s undergraduate research initiative, contact Melonie Sexton, professor, psychology, and coordinator of undergraduate research, at UR@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 5632.

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