Ouachita Baptist University’s annual Scholars Day provided the opportunity for students from every academic department on campus to present their best work to peers and faculty. Among the various activities of the day, OBU’s chapter of Tri-Beta national biology honor society judged the Scholars Day poster presentations of 42 students.
“One of the professional ways to present research at scientific meetings is via preparing a poster which describes and summarizes the research project with the determined results,” said Jim Taylor, associate professor of biology. “Since this is a common practice of presenting research at various venues, students in the sciences at OBU are required to know how to prepare a poster. This gives them invaluable experience they can apply to whatever work they take part in or graduate program in which they become a part.”
Among the winning entries, Daniel Cayce, a senior biology major from Thornton, Ark., and Alex Hargis, a senior biology major from Camden, Ark., won first place for their collaborative effort on “The Effects of Cannabinoids on Pediatric Tumors.” Hannah Penny, a senior biology major from Malvern, Ark., won second place for her research on “Methanol Recovery from Biodiesel Waste Products.” Third place went to Emily Coffman, a junior chemistry major from Hattieville, Ark., and Tim Sowder, a senior biology major from Conway, Ark., for their project, “Genes Involved in Ajulemic Acid Induced Cell Apoptosis.”
Although science posters are presented each year at Scholars Day, this is the first year that it has become a juried competition. Tri-Beta decided to use the funds the group had raised throughout the year to award prizes for the top three posters.
“This judging is good for the members as it causes them to critically evaluate a person’s poster to determine its scientific validity and gives incentive to participants to prepare a good poster,” Taylor noted. The awards for the top three posters were: $30 for first place, $20 for second and $10 for third place.
Penny said she worked on her project “with Dr. Tim Knight, who is producing biodiesel from vegetable oil to be used on campus. In order to make the entire process more cost efficient, I separated the methanol from glycerine, the other waste product, so that it could be used again. Methanol is the most expensive reagent in the biodiesel production process, so recovering the excess methanol in the waste products could greatly reduce cost.”
Coffman and Sowder worked on their project for a full semester with Dr. Lori Hensley, associate professor of biology. They studied the effects of Ajulemic acid (a chemical from marijuana) on highly aggressive cancer cells, a research project that has been going on at Ouachita for many years.
“Ewing’s sarcoma is a bone cancer prevalent in children that takes the lives of about 50 percent of those diagnosed,” Coffman explained. “Past studies have shown that Ajulemic acid kills these cancer cells, but we wanted to make sure that the method by which the cells were killed was safe for the tissue in a patient before the drug goes to animal trials. We concluded that overall the drug appears to kill the cells through the safer method, apoptosis.
“Understanding more about how research works has made me interested in full-time research in the future,” Coffman added, “and presenting the poster just helped me get a feel for putting all my data together and knowing how to present it intelligently and accurately.”
“The poster presentation at Scholars Day has grown each year,” Taylor noted. “This year had some exceptional research presented.”
Scholars Day includes a variety of instrumental and voice recitals, natural and social sciences posters, the Juried Student Art Show and presentations of papers and honors theses. The annual event is hosted by Ouachita’s Carl Goodson Honors Program and is a joint effort of administration, faculty, staff and students.
For more information about the Scholars Day Poster competition, contact Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5531. For more information about Scholars Day, contact Dr. Amy Sonheim at email@example.com or (870) 245-5552.
By Rebecca Stone