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University of South Dakota Undergraduate Research Excellence Award

Vermillion, SD - 2017 SD BRIN Undergraduate Research Fellow, Blaine Nelson, was awarded the University of South Dakota Undergraduate Research Excellence Award.  Forty eight students were selected out of eighty nine applications to the 2017 SD BRIN Undergraduate Research Fellows Program.  Blaine was selected from the University of South Dakota for the bioinformatics training research program. 

Blaine is originally from Sioux Falls, SD, where he graduated from Washington High School in 2015.  He is now a junior at the University of South Dakota where he is majoring in Medical Biology and German and minoring in Chemistry.  In the future, Blaine plans to attend medical school to become a surgeon, specializing in cardiothoracic surgery.

Blaine completed his first summer of conducting research with Dr. Erliang Zeng at the University of South Dakota.  His research project was entitled, "Functional Genomics of Medulloblastoma among Mus musculus Models: An integrative Analysis of the Transcriptome and Targetome".  Blaine first became interested in research when he saw his brother participate in undergraduate research.  Also, during high school biology, he found himself intrigued by the genetics section and he knew that he wanted to do research about something related to that field.  Bioinformatics introduced him to the opportunity for a combination of what he wanted to research.  He could obtain biological data pertaining to a severe neurodevelopmental condition and analyze/interpret this biological data to understand what genes may be affected to cause the cancer.

Of his SD BRIN undergraduate research experience, Blaine said, "The most rewarding part of my research was working with Sanford Research and Dr. Erliang Zeng to obtain the data consisting of the gene expression within different mice models in the entire mouse genome.  We compared mice models where the brain tumor was induced in the primary stage, induced in the metastatic stage, and the control group where the mice had not developed the tumor.  Using the expression data, I was able to run it through biological programs in order to find differentially expressed genes in the transcriptome.  My project also involved adding the differentially expressed genes from the targetome.  So overall, it was rewarding to be able to contribute to the progress of finding a linkage between genetics and medulloblastoma: like what genes may be playing the most significant roles in cancer."  The most challenging part of Blaine's research was the coding.  Of this challenge, he said, "I had to use code in order to run the data so that it could be analyzed later in the project.  However, code is really picky so there would be a moment where I thought I had everything correct in the code, but there was one tiny detail that was off so it would result in an error message".

On being awarded the University of South Dakota Undergraduate Research Excellence Award, Blaine would like to thank all of the people who have supported him at the University of South Dakota and express his gratitude for the summer research experience.

If you are interested in applying to the SD BRIN Undergraduate Research Fellowship, please click here.


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