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For Immediate Release
April 08, 2019

Student Research Opportunities at Purdue University Fort Wayne Lead to International Conference Presentations

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—For nearly two decades, Purdue University Fort Wayne Biology Professor Ahmed Mustafa has been involving his students in research to find ways to improve the stress levels and immune systems in fish and shellfish.  

“Stress physiology is a fascinating subject,” says Mustafa.

“Stress begins a physical reaction in any animal in response to changes in the environment, both internally and externally. If they don’t resist the stress, animals develop weakened immune systems and are prone to diseases. At the present time, animals are treated with drugs that can cause side effects and harm the environment.”

Mustafa aims to change that.

“I want to develop a better understanding of that physiology to minimize our dependency on chemical treatments, to produce quality animal proteins for human consumption, and to protect the environment from the negative effects of chemical pharmaceuticals,” he says.

Mustafa recently took his team of nine student researchers to the  Aquaculture 2019 Conference in New Orleans, where nearly 4,000 researchers, students, educators, researchers, commercial-fishing interests, and various fish-farming associations from more than 90 countries were in attendance. Five of his students presented peer-reviewed research on how to reduce stress and increase immunity in farm-raised fish.

Aparna Biswas, a graduate student majoring in biology, continues to work on determining if basil-supplemented feed for tilapia can help reduce its stress, while also strengthening and improving its immune system.

“The conference was an excellent opportunity for me to share my work,” says Biswas. “It was really good that I was also able to see what other ongoing research is taking place in my field of interest.”

Destin Furnas is also a graduate student majoring in biology. His long-term goal is to earn both a Ph.D. and an M.D. and to continue his research in stress management. He is also one of the team members who presented at the conference.

“Presenting in front of the large audience was nerve-wracking at first,” says Furnas, “but when I saw that the session chair and some audience members were really interested, it got a lot easier!”

Mustafa strongly believes in having a student research team.
“The experience provides motivation to the students for learning and helps them pursue their individual interests,” he says. “Through research, their intellectual curiosity is sparked, and they get the opportunity to take greater ownership of their own learning process.”

For additional information, contact Susan Alderman, at 260-481-6165 (office), 260-489-5349 (cell), or