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Goldenseal Plant Leads to Golden Research Opportunity

Andrea Blankemeyer | Thu Sep 2, 2021

University of Findlay’s Dana Emmert, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, is leading a research project studying the medicinal components in a plant native to the Appalachian region known as the goldenseal plant.

Cassandra Morefield working in lab

Morefield working in lab on UF’s campus.

Working with Emmert on this project is Cassandra Morefield, senior forensic biology student. Morefield expressed that she is enjoying working with Emmert. “I really appreciate my time researching because I get to use scientific equipment and become familiar with how things work, what different parts I’m looking for, specifications I need, and et cetera,” said Morefield. “For me, getting hands-on experience has been really helpful.”

Emmert’s research focuses on trying to inhibit the export of drugs from cells. The goldenseal plant has an unknown component that could potentially do that. Her goal is to figure out if there are compounds in the goldenseal plant that will keep medicines from being removed from a cell.

The goldenseal plant is highly poached because of its medicinal components and to harvest it kills the plant. According to Emmert, “If we can figure out that the green component has some sort of medicinal relevance, we can harvest this plant more sustainably.”

The goldenseal plant can take up to seven years to mature enough to harvest. “So, if in those seven years, we’re able to harvest the above-ground portion for other uses, our risk of this plant dwindling down in nature decreases,” said Emmert. “We hope to find a way to better use the plant and to give some motivation for not poaching it.”

Dana Emmert and Cassandra Morefield

Emmert and Morefield discussing their research.

Additionally, Emmert and Morefield agree that research experience is extremely valuable for students. “Research helps students become familiar with instrumentation, learn that repetition is key, and realize that a reliable set of standards is needed to make any conclusions about data,” stated Emmert.

“With Cassandra (Morefield) going into forensics, it’s going to be really important that any conclusion she would come to is something that has been arrived at methodically, with an accepted procedure, and with data you can trust,” said Emmert. “Cassandra has learned that you need near perfection when you are trying to gather this information.”

In the future, Emmert has hopes of expanding her research to other plants in the same Appalachian region and bringing on another student to work with her. If you’re a student who is interested in this type of research, please reach out to Professor Emmert at emmert@findlay.edu.

To learn more about University of Findlay’s Chemistry Program visit the Chemistry Program webpage.

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