AU Senior Presents Research in Finland Over Break

AU Senior Presents Research in Finland Over Break

9/5/19 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University senior and Grove City, Ohio, resident Abigail Dingus was given the opportunity to present a poster on her research at the meeting of the Society of Environmental Science and Chemistry (SETAC) in Helsinki, Finland, over this past summer.

As a double major in biology and biochemistry at Ashland University, Dingus took advantage of the opportunities in her department and was given an experience of a lifetime. Dingus is a 2016 graduate of Morrison Academy. She has always excelled in science and mathematics. While in high school, she began to notice that all of her favorite classes were in the sciences and ultimately, discovered her passion for biology and biochemistry.

Much of the research in her project was in collaboration with a professor in Lahti, Finland, named Dr. Aki Sinkkonen, which is what led her to present in Finland. Her project was titled "Density-dependent growth responses of Arabidopsis to copper: High densities are beneficial for efficient contaminant uptake" and summarized the work from her Honors’ thesis at Ashland under the direction of Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer (Chemistry) and Dr. Soren Brauner (Biology). 

The research was focused on an observation that plants survive and grow better in heavy metal polluted soils if they were grown at a higher density of plants per pot, which is contrary to the basic theories of ecology and competition. Dingus was set on finding the “why.”

Dingus explains, “As it turns out, the greater number of plants meant there was more of the natural compound to bind to the metals and not allow the metals to be toxic to the plants.”

Through this project, Dingus got to take a look inside the mystery and importance of soil for plant growth. This ultimately led to a newfound passion to study soil and ecology as they are two fundamental aspects of agriculture. After graduation, she plans on attending graduate school to study agronomy and soil ecology.

“In the end, I would like to do research to improve and develop the agriculture in harsh regions such as Africa. I may also take time off before starting grad school to work in the Peace Corps,” Dingus says.

Dingus has a research internship this summer at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo., where she will be analyzing inositol polyphosphates from corn embryos using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometryHer trip to Helsinki was supported in part by Charles River Laboratories and the State of Ohio’s Choose Ohio First scholarship program.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, comprehensive private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Religiously affiliated with the Brethren Church, Ashland University ( deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###