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Posters Showcase Undergraduate Research Results

His name is John Hokanson. At 21, he looks the part of your average college senior – shaggy blonde hair, t-shirt, striped button-down. Standing beside the poster he developed to illustrate his summer research efforts, he is both excited and nervous by the interest onlookers are showing in his work.

Listen to Hokanson, a senior Biology major from Cottonwood, Minn., and you quickly learn the young man’s anything but average. His research explored the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids. His efforts, which were conducted at the Avera Research Institute, for Sanford Research, were funded through the South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (SD BRIN) Program.

Hokanson, like Augustana’s other 58 undergraduate students who participated in scientific and medical research projects on- and off-campus this past summer, hopes that one day, his discoveries will help people live longer, healthier lives.

Last week, posters illustrating the research efforts of Augustana students lined the hallways of the Gilbert Science Complex – an annual event College President Rob Oliver calls awe-inspiring.

“The scientific discoveries these young men and women and their mentors are pioneering are simply astonishing. John is one terrific example of how, at Augustana, our faculty and our students are working to make the world a better place,” said Oliver.

“We’re proud to support a culture of discovery. Thanks to our exceptional faculty and low student-to-professor ratios, students at Augustana have the chance to conduct research alongside our faculty scientists as early as their freshman year. In addition, they also have a chance to present and publish their findings in nationally known, peer-reviewed scientific journals. The results of these activities show up in places like our Sanford USD Medical School and other medical schools and graduate programs across the U.S.,” Oliver said.

For Hokanson, there was one thing his poster couldn’t illustrate – it couldn’t show what the experience taught him.

“I learned so much beyond what I was researching – patience, the ability to think analytically, organization, Murphy’s Law and scientific method,” he said. “It was an exceptional real world experience.”

For Hokanson, his intrigue with Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids will likely continue. He plans to attend medical school next fall and hopes to practice primary care in a rural community.