Seven students from Ouachita Baptist University were awarded first place for their research presentations at the recent 2013 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Southeast Regional IDeA conference in Little Rock. A total of 11 Ouachita students from the J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences presented their work.
The conference attracted more than 350 participants from NIH-supported biomedical research programs in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. Participants were divided into various scientific categories, based on the nature of their research, and presented either oral or poster presentations of their work.
“Receiving awards at a meeting with half a dozen different states gets the word out on what we’re doing,” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of OBU’s Patterson School. “It increases our audience and makes people want to know more about Ouachita.”
“Winning awards is always great recognition for the hours of diligent work our students put into their individual research projects,” added Dr. Marty Perry, OBU’s Nell I. Mondy Professor of Chemistry. “It not only shows their important scientific discoveries, but their ability to communicate it effectively.”
In addition, Perry chaired the conference’s undergraduate program, which helped provide undergraduate students with “more meaningful experiences.” Dr. Lori Hensley, holder of the J.D. Patterson Chair of Biology, organized the program’s career luncheon, which included a panel of former NIH-supported students who have pursued a variety of biomedical careers. The program also provided the opportunity for undergraduates to make oral presentations alongside faculty and graduate students.
Sarah Bishop, a senior chemistry and biology major from Paron, Ark., was one of four Ouachita students awarded first place for an oral presentation. Bishop conducted her research this past summer at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
“My research investigated the protective effects of the aqueous extracts of Terminalia arjuna bark against doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity,” Bishop said. Doxorubicin is a commonly used anticancer drug, known to cause oxidative stress on the heart. Terminalia arjuna bark is used in Aydurvedic medicine and is a known cardio tonic that maintains the heart’s tone.
Tim Horton, a senior professional chemistry and physics major from Arkadelphia, Ark., was also awarded first place for his oral presentation about cell signaling. Horton conducted his research this past summer at the University of California, Berkley, focusing on the regulation of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
“I think the award at this meeting was significant because of the emphasis placed on understanding complex scientific ideas,” Horton noted.
Dustin Walter, a junior biology and chemistry major from Marion, Ark., received first place for his oral presentation on the research he conducted last summer at the University of Arkansas.
“We worked with Candida albicans, a fungus, to test the anti-fungal ability of antimicrobial peptides previously synthesized by the Kumar-McNabb laboratory,” Walter explained. “When I learned that I had won, I clearly felt excited,” he said. “It also left me feeling very thankful. So many people guided me through this research so that I could have the opportunity to present.”
Laura Strossner, a senior biology major from Conway, Ark., was awarded first place for her oral presentation on her research concerning ajulemic acid as a possible cancer therapy drug for solid, pediatric tumors such as Ewing’s Sarcoma and Retinoblastoma.
“We try to get our students to not only carry out research, but also to be able to communicate what they’ve done and what they’ve learned,” said Hensley, who worked with Strossner this past summer on Ouachita’s campus.
Drake Hardy, a senior biology major from Royal, Ark., was awarded first place for his poster presentation; Hardy also worked with Hensley and Strossner this past summer on the same research project.
“It was an honor just to be able to present my research at this conference,” he said. “Actually winning this award is an even bigger honor. … It shows people how exceptional our professors are and how important and relevant their research is.”
John Butler, a senior biology major from Hope, Ark., and Kirby Von Edwins, a senior biology major from Little Rock, received first place for their poster presentation on oxidative stress and how it affects human health. Butler and Von Edwin’s worked with Dr. Nathan Reyna, associate professor of biology, this past summer on Ouachita’s campus.
“Presenting at conferences like this is such an invaluable experience,” Von Edwins said. “One must truly understand every aspect of their research when they stand up in front of the scientific community and argue the validity of their hypotheses and conclusions.”
Other Ouachita students who participated in the conference included: Mallory Burroughs, a junior biology major from Hot Springs, Ark.; Sarah Carr, a senior biology major from Cherokee Village, Ark.; Jessie Meyer, a senior biology major from Woodway, Texas; and Sara Williams, a sophomore biology and psychology major from Roland, Ark.
For more information, contact Dr. Tim Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5528.
By Taylor Tomlinson