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Many BVU faculty members stay connected with former academic colleagues. These relationships can lead to professional development opportunities, as well as internship and research experiences for students.

Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, associate professor of biology, could easily be a poster model for BVU faculty whose connections have opened the door for students to have international research experiences that are unique for small private universities.

Since 2008, three BVU science students have studied during the summer in the laboratory of Dr. Jin-Qiu Zhou, associate professor of biochemistry at the Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences in Shanghai, China.

Zhou, an internationally recognized biochemist, was a post-doctoral research colleague of Lenzmeier for three years at Princeton University in the early 2000s. “We became very good friends and our similar experiences helped us overcome the initial cultural differences,” says Lenzmeier.

Lenzmeier and Zhou have maintained a long-distance collaboration since 2005 that has resulted in publication of peer-reviewed research articles in scientific journals and student internships.

Their discussions led to a six-week internship in Zhou’s lab in 2008 for Alyssa Hudnall, Class of 2010. She was the first BVU student to intern in the lab, an experience that was funded in part by a J. Leslie Rollins Fellowship, which was established through philanthropy.

Lenzmeier has visited Zhou twice in Shanghai, most recently in the summer of 2010 along with two BVU biology majors — seniors Michael Dirkx and Rachael Reicks. Two more BVU students are planning to intern in Zhou’s lab for six weeks this summer.

“Maintaining my personal and professional relationship with Dr. Zhou is an important part of my professional development and one that directly benefits BVU students,” notes Lenzmeier. He hopes to host Zhou or one of his advanced students on campus, possibly during a BVU January interim.

Lenzmeier and his students also have ongoing research relationships with educators/researchers and their students at other universities in the United States and Taiwan. Some of those connections originated during his post-doctoral studies.

Lenzmeier’s commitment to professional development and his students does not end there.

The recipient of BVU’s 2009 George Wythe Award for excellence in teaching, he used his Wythe sabbatical to work during the fall semester in the Virology and Gene Therapy program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The program is headed by Dr. Stephen Russell, a BVU trustee. The primary focus of the research is to engineer viruses to infect and kill cancerous cells in patients while doing minimal damage to nonmalignant cells.

“By immersing myself in primary biomedical research at the Mayo Clinic, I learned many new things that will be incorporated into my BVU courses at all levels,” he says.

The Mayo Clinic scientists also worked with Lenzmeier to develop a cancer research project that BVU students are conducting this spring in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic team.

Lenzmeier says students’ collaboration with other professionals has important benefits. “Doing research with other scientists forces my students to be more careful, thoughtful and critical of their experimental design and results.”