Research projects into the mysteries of metabolism and disease processes are being conducted quietly at Ferris State University, tucked away in the laboratories of the Arts and Sciences Commons.
Ferris biochemistry junior Thomas Colvin has been engaged in a Shimadzu Lab project here at Ferris.
Colvin is also involved in an ongoing study looking at metabolites secreted in saliva through a mass spectrometer to map out normal metabolites in healthy individuals and abnormal metabolites associated with disease.
“The short-term goal of harnessing this data would be to correlate this data with potential diagnosis of certain diseases through just a saliva collection,” Colvin said. “That’s many years down the road though. Right now, we’re doing the grunt work and doing as much as we can in order to properly calculate concentrations of metabolites in saliva.”
Colvin said a success for the Shimadzu saliva spectrometry study would be to develop a control to base further experiments that may ultimately lead to some method of disease diagnosis.
In order to isolate these metabolites, a student researcher will gather a saliva sample from a volunteer, and then run the sample through a machine called a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS).
Colvin explained that the machine does all the separation of the sample for the operator through a series of chemical reactions. The sample is then sent through a mass spectrometer, where molecules are analyzed based on their size.
“A lot more students need to throw themselves out there and try to get involved with the Shimadzu research lab,” Colvin said.
According to Colvin, the learning experience students can gain by working in the Shimadzu lab is much greater than only taking part in lab during regular coursework.
“I truly feel as though if you go downstairs, you’re going to challenge yourself in a way that you won’t be challenged in the regular classrooms,” Colvin said.