By Miesha Swensen, College of Arts and Sciences communication intern
Graduate student Mara Riley was selected for a rare honor this fall, thanks to her unique research comparing the effects of breastfeeding and infant formula on infant health.
“Out of more than 200 abstracts, she was the only student selected to present her data in an oral presentation rather than a poster,” said Shelley McGuire, Washington State University nutrition professor/lactation physiologist and Riley’s advisor. “This is something Mara should be very proud of.”
McGuire is the principal investigator on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant that funded Riley’s research.
Riley gave her presentation at the biennial International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation (ISRHML) conference in Trieste, Italy, in September.
“To be able to showcase data from my research to that group of professionals really made me feel like the research had come to life,” she said.
Riley’s research focuses on infant health and gastrointestinal microbiota by looking at the two feeding modes, breastfed and formula-fed, and changes in infant health over time. She collected saliva, milk, and feces from 23 woman-and-infant pairs in the Pullman/Moscow area and analyzed the bacteria present in each of the samples.
Riley was awarded the Young Investigator Travel Award from ISRHML, which made it possible for her to attend the conference. The award recognizes junior investigators who have shown outstanding scientific research in the study of milk and lactation. She also received funding from the Carl H. Elling Endowment in the WSU School of Biological Sciences to support her research and travel expenses.
Riley and McGuire collaborate with University of Idaho lactation physiologist Mark McGuire and his lab.