Photo of Ashley Campbell presenting research


University of Northern Iowa biology major Ashley Campbell was elated to find out she’d been selected to present her research at the Iowa State Capitol in March.

Every year, the Research at the Capitol event brings a small group of undergraduate students from all three regent schools together to highlight and celebrate undergraduate research.

Due to restrictions on gatherings and events as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Research at the Capitol event was canceled, but Campbell said she’s not going to let that dampen her spirits.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned through my research is to not be discouraged when things don't go as anticipated,” she said. “I think that applies to this situation, as well.”

For the last six months, Campbell had been hard at work on researching, planning and preparing for the event.

Her research, titled, "Characterization of a New mtDNA Minicircle in a Chewing Louse, G. aurei” is concerned with mitochondrial DNA in a chewing louse.

The chewing louse has a very unique mitochondrial gene arrangement compared to most animals, and there’s a lot to be learned in studying it, Campbell said. The research has potential to be applied in medical science, particularly in understanding and treating diseases and disorders.

“Many individuals suffer from debilitating diseases related to dysfunction of the mitochondria,” she said. “Knowing more about the mitochondria, what genes are selected, and under what circumstances, lies the framework for understanding diseases and disorders. Without an understanding of these diseases and disorders, there is little to no basis for creating therapies or potential cures.”

And though she won’t have the chance to present her findings at the capitol, Campbell says she was fortunate enough to present her research at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference at Western Illinois University in February. She also plans to continue working on her research as she can from home.

“Unfortunately, I can’t be in the lab due to the current circumstances, but I’m working from home on the methods and materials section of the manuscript,” she said. “This whole experience has taught me so much. I’ve learned to troubleshoot, be creative and flexible, and most importantly to not be discouraged when things don't go as anticipated, both in research and beyond that.”

Upon graduation, Campbell plans to attend medical school and hopes to become a neurologist. After working in a memory care unit, Campbell says she’s come to love caring for residents with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. She hopes her research can help people affected by those types of diseases.