Dr. Lori Hensley, associate professor of biology at Ouachita Baptist University, and four Ouachita biology students have been selected to participate in the 2014 “Posters on the Hill” program in April in Washington, D.C.
“Posters on the Hill” is an annual poster session for undergraduate students hosted by the Council of Undergraduate Research. Out of approximately 600 applications submitted for evaluation, the Ouachita team is one of only 60 institutions chosen for this year’s event.
“I was pretty shocked,” said Mikey Sullivan, a senior biology major from Kingwood, Texas. “The selection process is pretty difficult and Dr. Hensley’s team has been chosen twice in the past. Still, I am unequivocally ecstatic that our team has the opportunity to attend.”
Hensley noted that the third invitation to participate “demonstrates the determination and hard work of these students and shows that others find relevance in the work they are doing here. It is certainly encouraging.”
In addition to Sullivan, other students attending include: Drake Hardy, a senior biology major from Royal, Ark.; Ryan Strebeck, a senior biology and Spanish major from Texarkana, Ark.; and Laura Strossner, a senior biology major from Conway, Ark.
Focusing on the effects of ajulemic acid on Ewing’s Sarcoma, a highly aggressive pediatric bone cancer, the group’s research documents “the ability of the drug to kill the cancer cells, the effect on the other body cells and the level of toxicity of the drug at various dosages,” Strossner said.
“In order to investigate these issues, our lab has employed and optimized a new tumor model called spheroids,” Sullivan added. “Spheroids have been developed to make cellular interactions and behaviors of cells in the lab more closely mimic those that occur in tumors in the body.”
“Research is not easy and doesn’t always work out the way we think or hope it will,” Hensley added. “These students are making a difference. They are optimizing new models in which to study cancer and the effects of potential new therapies.”
During the two-day trip, the students will meet with U.S. senators and representatives in their offices, attend a reception and give a poster presentation on Capitol Hill. These opportunities to meet with members of Congress and allow the students to explain why undergraduate research is important.
“They get to go to D.C. and explain their science in terms that, we hope, will connect and resonate with legislators to try to improve funding for undergraduate research,” Hensley explained. “It provides an opportunity for them to think about what they’ve been doing from a whole new perspective. I’m very proud of them.”
“It is a tremendous opportunity that is highly intimidating but rewardingly exciting for us to be able to share with members of Congress and other students from around the country what we have learned through our research and how we can apply it to a better tomorrow,” Sullivan said.
Hensley’s research is supported by the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence program with grants from the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences from the National Institutes of Health.
For more information, contact Dr. Lori Hensley at email@example.com or (870) 245-5529.
By Taylor Tomlinson