Make The Connection

April 24, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan student Ava Klann '24 works in the laboratory on her research into the effects of selenium (an essential element) on the growth of white button mushrooms. She earned an OWU Connection grant to support the academic year-long project. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Elemental Research

Ohio Wesleyan Student Studies the Effects of Selenium on Mushroom Growth, Development

Name: Ava Klann '24
Hometown: Dublin, Ohio
High School: Dublin Coffman High School
Major: Biochemistry (Bachelor of Science)
Minor: Chemistry

OWU Connection Experience: Using an OWU Connection Theory-to-Practice Grant to spend the academic year researching "The Effects of Selenium and Various Substrate Mixtures on the Growth and Development of Agaricus bisporus"

My Research Objective

"The objective of this experimental project is to analyze and discover the effects of selenium on the growth factors of white button mushrooms. The reason for conducting this experiment is to study the trace element selenium, which is vital to humans. Selenium is a necessary component of selenoproteins that aid in protection from oxidative stress, reproduction, DNA synthesis, and thyroid hormone metabolism. This study is multifaceted, as we are interested in growing conditions for optimum selenium absorption and the contribution of selenium on growth factors."

In her Theory-to-Practice Grant application, Klann elaborated on the broader potential of selenium research, stating of the chemical element: Outside research has found that "the selenium content in white button mushrooms is considered antioxidants that can reduce ROS (reactive oxygen species). There have also been studies done on white button mushrooms that have shown beneficial effects on reducing ROS and the effects of this on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's."

My Research Methods

"We will be testing different substrates, such as rice, wheat, and rye, to see which allows for the highest absorption of selenium. These substrates are commonly used as food sources and as staple meals in numerous countries.

"We will also be analyzing the effects of selenium on the GFR3 (growth factor 3) gene by studying the mRNA expression levels of GFR3 under varying concentrations of selenium.

"We will also be studying the effects of selenium absorption at the protein level, by analyzing the expression levels of GFR3. We hypothesize that increasing concentrations of selenium will result in white button mushroom size and mass increasing, which will also correlate to increasing levels of overexpression of GFR3 transcripts and protein."

My Favorite Moment

"My favorite moment of this experience so far was finding out I had been awarded the grant after doing a copious amount of research to support my hypothesis. It was a truly gratifying moment where I felt that the OWU faculty had as much faith in my research as I did."

The biggest lesson that I have learned is to never procrastinate. No, you cannot 'do it tomorrow.' You have to do it now, or you're never going to get around to it. This applies to not just my research but to all aspects of life.

Ava Klann '24

Lessons Learned 

"The biggest lesson that I have learned is to never procrastinate. No, you cannot 'do it tomorrow.' You have to do it now, or you're never going to get around to it. This applies to not just my research but to all aspects of life.

"Keeping a time schedule of things you need to do is extremely important to stay on task and meet deadlines. Learning time-management skills will make you look more professional, reliable, and trustworthy to employers, recruiters, co-workers, etc."

My Research Collaborator

"I am working with Kayce Tomcho, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of chemistry. Dr. Tomcho was my professor for Biochemistry I and II last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed being her student. I chose Dr. Tomcho because she's a wonderful human being who is great to work with, and she has extensive knowledge and experience in mRNA expression and analysis."

My Campus Involvements

"I am a member of the OWU Women's Track and Field team. While I am a combined-events athlete (pentathlon/heptathlon), my main events are 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, and high jump. I am also a member of Delta Gamma, and I have held two positions on the Panhellenic Council (vice president of communications and president)."

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan?

"I chose to attend OWU because I wanted a smaller community to connect with and have access to exclusive opportunities like internships and independent research. I also like having smaller-sized classes where lectures are constructed based on the classes' learning style and I can utilize one-on-one learning."

My Plans After Graduation

"I plan to take a gap year to work and gain experience and funding to eventually attend either medical or graduate school. If I choose to attend medical school, my goal is to get an M.D. with a specialty in clinical and anatomical pathology.

"If I choose to attend graduate school, my goal is to get a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry with a focus on environmental climate change and mycology (the study of fungi). OWU is helping me prepare to reach my goals by providing me with the resources to get a job and apply to medical and graduate programs, and guiding me through the application and interview processes."