St. Olaf College | News

Student’s soybean research published in scientific journal

Emily Butka ’18 is one of the authors of a research article published this fall by Scientific Reports.

St. Olaf College student Emily Butka ’18 is the second author of a research article published this fall by Scientific Reports, an online scientific journal from the publishers of Nature.

The article details the findings of a University of Missouri–St. Louis research lab that Butka worked in as member of the 2013 Students and Teachers As Research Scientists (STARS) program.

As a STARS participant, Butka spent six weeks of summer 2013 conducting research alongside a mentor at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. The research focused on measuring the number of triacylglycerols (the main components of fats and oils) in soybean seeds.

“One of my jobs was to prepare [soybean seed] samples — I did a lot of mortar and pestling that summer,” says Butka.

This past summer, Butka worked in the same research lab at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but on a different project.

“It involved growing a lot of plants in petri dishes,” Butka says.

A college committed to research
In her college search, Butka looked for schools where she could continue to gain hands-on experience in biology.

“One of the reasons I picked St. Olaf is that undergrads can do research,” she says.

St. Olaf is committed to providing students with undergraduate research opportunities. In addition to the college’s own Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry program, the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and even the National Institute of Justice support research at the college.

Butka recently joined the lab of St. Olaf Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Charles Umbanhowar Jr., whose research involves using lake sediment samples to determine the environmental history of an area.

Butka is excited about her first scientific publication, and hopes to someday conduct plant research of her own.

“STARS was an exciting opportunity,” Butka says. “It was a great experience to watch the process of submitting a scientific paper for peer review.”