February 25, 2014

Ball State Professor Studies Effects of Hypoglycemia

Contributed by Brenda Mackey 
Graduate Assistant, Research Publications
Sponsored Programs Office, Ball State University

The police pull over a driver, worried that he is drunk. He seems confused and unable to concentrate.  However, he has no alcohol in his system. What’s going on?

It turns out that this driver has diabetes and has become hypoglycemic. Bart Pederson, Associate Professor of Medical Education, explains that this is something people with diabetes deal with on a regular basis – especially those who have Type 1 diabetes, where they are taking insulin every day. “There’s a good chance of them going hypoglycemic. They give themselves too much insulin and their glucose drops too low. Some papers say this happens as much as twice a week. It has major effects on their ability to think clearly. It makes them tired, confused,” Pederson explains. “There’s definitely a need to understand this disorder better and how to treat it.”

Understanding hypoglycemia is what Pederson is working to do. While studying glycogen metabolism during his post-doctoral research, he investigated genetically engineered mice whose bodies couldn’t make glycogen. Having that resource available led Pederson to his current project, which involves studying the importance of brain glycogen in memory formation and the protection it may provide for the brain under hypoglycemic conditions. “Hypoglycemia is the major obstacle preventing the benefits associated with intensive insulin therapy in individuals with diabetes. Low glucose levels can lead to cognitive impairment and even brain damage,” he says.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have seen the value in Pederson’s work, awarding him grants in 2008 and 2013. His current project pursues two aims. “The first aim is investigating the less severe cases, where people can’t think well,” he explains. “We’re using these mice, we give them insulin, make them hypoglycemic, and there’s different sorts of memory or learning tests we can do.”

How does one determine if a mouse is learning? One test, which Pederson calls “log rolling for mice,” measures motor learning skills. Mice are put on a rod that rotates and they try to stay on it. A normal mouse gets a little better at this every day. But a hypoglycemic mouse does not perform nearly as well. It has a harder time with coordination and learning to adjust for the rotation.

The second aim of the grant involves looking at severe conditions. “These are conditions that in humans can actually lead to coma. Brain cells are dying off because there’s not enough fuel for them to survive – they’re just deprived. And so in that case what we do is make our mice hypoglycemic and then again we compare – does it make any difference whether you have glycogen in your brain?” Pederson says. “Under these conditions where you basically can’t measure any glucose in their brains, the only fuel left would be glycogen. So you’d expect that if you don’t have any glycogen you don’t have any fuel, so more brain cells would die. And that seems to be the case from what we’ve seen so far.”

Working with students has become essential to Pederson’s research. “When I first came, I did a fair amount of things in the lab,” he says. “But now my role is mainly teaching the students the techniques and helping them to troubleshoot problems that arise, teaching them the background behind what we’re doing and the relevance.”

Immersive learning with students in research can lead to some interesting results. “I joke with them that I’m always rewriting my protocols because they come up with some way to do things wrong that I never would have thought of before!” Pederson says. “It just shows that you can’t assume things.”

Despite any hiccups the students may cause, they are essential to Pederson’s research. “If I didn’t have any students, nothing would get done! They’re the hands that do everything.”

Associate Professor Bart Pederson and his student researchers. 
Pederson was inspired to study diabetes because of the sheer number of people with the disease – 350 million worldwide. He was also inspired by one specific person – his grandfather, who struggled with diabetes throughout his life.

Pederson also just enjoys conducting research. “You’re getting to explore something that’s new. People haven’t been able to answer this question. You get to study it and hopefully find some answers. It’s exciting to make a new discovery.”

February 04, 2014

2014 Grantsmanship Information Session Recap

Throughout the year, the Sponsored Programs Office conducts many workshops and information sessions for students, faculty, and staff. This year, the Third Annual Grantsmanship Information Session (GIS) took place from 1:30 – 4:00 pm on Monday, February 3 in the Student Center.

Dr. David Stone, Associate Vice President for Research at Northern Illinois University presented the keynote address Research at Ball State Redefined: Empowering Faculty. A Knowledge Unit Meet & Greet was held shortly thereafter consisting of various campus centers and institutes. Ball State affiliates from various fields of study were given the opportunity to attend this networking event created to foster interdisciplinary research while exploring potential opportunities for collaboration – pivotal factors in externally funded projects. Each Knowledge Unit provided GIS attendees with ample opportunities to learn about both new and familiar subject.

Knowledge and Support Units Included:
  • Applied Archaeology Laboratories
  • Building Better Communities
  • Center for Energy Research/Education/Service
  • Center for Gifted Studies and Talent Development
  • Center for International Development
  • Center for Middletown Studies
  • Center for Peace and Conflict Studies

GIS attendees also had a chance to join one of the Concurrent Information Sessions that followed the Knowledge Unit Meet & Greet. 

Positioning New Faculty for Success in Research 
Dr. David Stone presented several research practices to help build a solid foundation for new faculty members to successfully begin their research agenda.  

Fulbright Scholar Information Session
Mr. Justin Miller, Director of Sponsored Programs introduced the Fulbright Scholar Program which sends both faculty and professionals abroad each year as they conduct research in various academic and professional fields.

Professionalize Your Approach to Grantsmanship
SPO Program Manager, Dr. Stanley Geidel discussed a professional approach to seeking external funding by examining three important roles that faculty occupy in the Academy: the roles of professor, principal investigator, and grantseeker. 

New Ways to Approach Private and Foundation Funding
Presented by Richard Dunfee, Executive Director of the Grants Resource Center and his colleague Program Advisor Richard Wellons, this presentation explored the current state of private funding while examining the trends that colleges and universities should consider when applying for grants offered by corporations and foundations. 

The Sponsored Programs Office would like to give a special thanks to our guest speakers Dr. David Stone, Dr. Richard Dunfee and Dr. Richard Wellons along with those who served in the Sponsored Programs Office who were instrumental in the success of the event.