-story by Lena Wallace '13
Biology Professor Melanie Gubbels Bupp
Biology Professor Melanie Gubbels Bupp came to Randolph-Macon College in 2009 for several reasons: the talented people, innovative teaching, and the unique First-Year Experience (FYE) program.
The FYE program immerses freshmen in a cross-disciplinary study that is challenging, thought-provoking—and fun. Small cohorts join professors from two different disciplines for a year-long exploration of a topic in a challenging set of classes. Outside the classroom, students participate in co-curricular events designed to deepen their understanding of the topic. The students’ work culminates in an interdisciplinary analysis that might take the form of a written report, a video production or a work of art.
Beginning in fall 2013, Gubbels Bupp will team-teach her first FYE course, Unhealthy Globe: People, Disease, and Policy, with Sociology Professor Amy Nichols-Belo. The course introduces students to infectious and chronic illnesses around the globe using biological, epidemiological and anthropological approaches.
“Students will work together in several small groups for their final project, which will involve creating a promotional and educational documentary for a local community partner,” says Gubbels Bupp. “We intend for the documentary to capture the biological aspects of a particular health issue in a culturally relevant way. We hope that each group’s community partner will be able to use the documentary to help educate their target population as well as promote awareness about their work.”
Teaching and Research
Gubbels Bupp teaches Integrative Biology II, Health and Immunity, Immunology, Infectious Disease and Public Health, and Dirt, Immunity, and Cancer. She has also advised Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) students who studied how the immune system maintains responsiveness to the wide variety of pathogens that we may potentially encounter. Student-researchers examined this question from several angles—during aging, during limited caloric intake, and after exposure to a particular kind of stress.
“I’m very proud of the work my students have completed—it has formed the basis for several talks/poster sessions at national conferences and enabled me to secure additional external funding through the Mednick and the Jeffress Foundations,” says Gubbels Bupp.
Chi Beta Phi
In 2012, Gubbels Bupp traveled with SURF participants to the national Chi Beta Phi conference in Elkins, West Virginia. Chi Beta Phi is a national science honor society; R-MC’s chapter was founded in 1916. At the conference, students presented their research. Hayley Williamson ’13 won first place for her presentation, “Transitions from low beta to high beta regimes in the Venus ionosphere,” in which she described the work she did with Dr. Joseph Grebowsky at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. In addition, Maggie Benson ’13 won third place for her work, which she conducted with Biology Professor Grace Lim-Fong, titled “The early larva gets a home: The invasiveness of the Shallow genotype of Bugula neritina.” Gubbels Bupp says the four-hour car drive through the mountains let her get to know these personable and talented students.
“To top it all off, we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow as we drove back through the mountains towards Ashland after the conference,” she recalls.
Jeffress Memorial Trust Research Grant
Gubbels Bupp’s latest publication, “Transcription factor Foxo1 represses T-bet-mediated effector functions and promotes memory CD8(+) T cell differentiation,” was published in 2012 in Immunity, a peer-reviewed medical journal of immunology. In 2012 she received a Jeffress Memorial Trust Research Grant for her research project titled, “Do Foxo transcription factors protect T cells from reactive oxygen species?”
“In laymen’s terms, I’m trying to better understand how and why our immune systems decline with age,” explains Gubbels Bupp. “So far, we have tentatively identified a gene that seems to be involved in protecting cells of our immune system from aging.”
Gubbels Bupp says her most rewarding experience at R-MC is working one on one with students in her lab and working with biology capstone projects.
“I like working with students individually and at their own pace,” she says.
Gubbels Bupp earned her B.S. from Creighton University and her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado.