Role of Steroids Researched by UMass Amherst Biology Students; Presentation Set for Dec. 10, 11

AMHERST, Mass. - A group of University of Massachusetts biology students will present the most recent findings regarding steroids at 8 a.m., Dec. 10 at Northampton High School and at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 11, in Room 168C in the UMass Campus Center. The press and the public are invited to attend. Among the topics that will be addressed are: the role of a newly discovered protein, leptin, in the control of body weight; recent findings on treatments of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women; and hormones and Alzheimer’s disease in women.

The presentations are being offered as part of Sandra Peterson’s Biology 597E class, which critiques recent research findings related to steroids. Steroids, Petersen explains, are critically important hormones produced in the body, in both men and women. While steroids are responsible for the onset of puberty, they also have a role in growth, behaviors, and brain development. Steroids have made headlines in recent years as "exogenous" hormones ? those that are ingested, either as prescription medication, or as over-the-counter dietary supplements which are often unregulated.

The students each focused on a specific topic, reviewing the most up-to-date studies and interviewing experts. "Reading the scientific literature and talking with leading scientists shows the students that researchers in a given field may have divergent findings, and that science is an ongoing process," said Petersen. "The class also helps students to become more autonomous in their research; to seek out the appropriate information and think about it critically."

Several students will discuss their findings with an advanced placement biology class at Northampton High School at 8 a.m., Thurs. Dec. 10. Seth Rockwell will discuss possible detrimental effects of environmental pollutants on endocrine systems, and Melissa Wehnert will explain the physiological effects and dangers of anabolic and androgenic steroids, which are sometimes taken illicitly by young athletes.

The students will present their findings in Room 168C of the Campus Center at 7:30 p.m., Fri. Dec. 11. Juli Jones will discuss the role of leptin in the control of body weight, Kathleen Savage will present recent findings on treatments of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, and Brett Jackson will discuss hormones and Alzheimer’s disease in women.