Simpson University Biology Students to Present Research at National Council

For Immediate Release


Biology Students Gilson and Last

REDDING, Calif.—Three Simpson University biology students have been selected to present research at the 2018 National Council on Undergraduate Research’s annual meeting this spring.

Julianna Gilson of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Rachel Last of Grass Valley, Calif., and Corinne Schali of Cottonwood, Calif., will give presentations focused on ongoing work by students and faculty in the Biology Department aimed at cleaning up acid mine drainage at Shasta County’s Iron Mountain Mine. The mine, located 9 miles west of Redding, has been designated a federal Environmental Protection Agency “Superfund” site.

The presentations will focus on the identification of microorganisms that thrive in acid mine drainage as well as methods Simpson biology students are using to stimulate those organisms to neutralize the acid, to clean up the mine.

Gilson and Last presented their research in March at Simpson University’s 8th annual Student Research Symposium. Their work was selected from among 4,000 applicants to present at the national council’s early April meeting in Oklahoma City.

Biology professor Brian Hooker and his student team began the Iron Mountain Mine Research and Environmental Education Project (IMREEP) in spring 2013 with collection and analysis of soil samples taken from several locations around the mine. The second phase involved measuring sulfate levels in microbial samples from the mine to test for conditions where microbes could reduce the acid concentration.

This will be the second time Simpson students have presented on IMREEP at the National Council on Undergraduate Research. In spring 2014, graduate Siby Sabu was selected to present a project titled “Phylogeny of Soil Microorganisms in Runoff at an Extreme Acid Mine Drainage Site.”

Sabu’s team included classmate Taylor Polk, Dr. Hooker and science professor Trent Smith. In 2016-2017, student Dillon Stetler also worked on the project, winning an award for Best Research Presentation in Simpson’s 2017 Student Research Symposium, on the topic of “Extremophilic Bacteria in Acid-Mine Drainage.”

Gilson, Last, and Schali’s work builds on that of their predecessors, Dr. Hooker explained.

“Julianna, Corinne and Rachel have extended the work completed previously on the IMREEP project through additional studies to identify and characterize bacteria that neutralize acid mine drainage,” he said. “Their work has far exceeded my expectations and will help develop mine clean-up strategies.”

The three women will graduate from Simpson University in April with bachelor’s degrees in biology. Gilson and Last are looking into graduate school options; Gilson hopes to work someday for the Centers for Disease Control. Schali is planning to enroll in a physician’s assistant program.

The IMREEP team has received support from the Long Foundation, the Rev. Charles Dale, and Mrs. Frances Owen. Learn more about Simpson University’s biology program at

Photo: Simpson University biology students Julianna Gilson, far right, and Rachel Last are interviewed by KRCR-TV reporter Sade Browne about their research projects during the Student Research Symposium March 14. Gilson, Last and Corinne Schali were selected to present research at the National Council on Undergraduate Research’s annual meeting in April.




Related Media:
-KRCR-TV story about the Student Research Symposium


Simpson University, established in 1921, is a Christian university offering undergraduate, graduate, and teaching credential programs. The university celebrated its 25th year in Redding and the completion of a Science and Nursing Center in 2014. Academic programs include ASPIRE, a degree-completion program geared toward working adults with both on-campus and online course offerings, including degrees in psychology and organizational leadership. For information about the university, or to arrange a campus visit, call 1-888-9-SIMPSON or visit


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