Seventeen Ouachita Baptist University natural sciences students had the opportunity to work on a variety of research projects this past summer. Each of these students worked in partnership with a Ouachita professor or other mentor to gain further knowledge and to develop their research.
“A research project is required for the B.S. degree in biology,” explained Dr. Tim Knight, J.D. Patterson Professor of Biology. “Typically junior level students begin discussing projects with faculty to get an idea of what is required and what they might work on with a faculty member.
“Students get to apply the knowledge acquired from course work to an actual bench scale project. It’s more than just learning about science. It’s actually doing science,” Knight said. “It helps their resumes and also looks great when applying to professional or graduate school.”
Allie Baldwin, a senior dietetics and nutrition major from Arkadelphia, Ark., said, “I worked on research in the dietetics department this summer. It has been an ongoing project the past five summers. It involves nutrition and physical activity education sessions for children in the Prime Time summer program.”
Allie Baldwin works with Arkadelphia’s Prime Time Program.
Baldwin worked with Dr. Detri Brech, Ouachita professor of dietetics, this summer through a J.D. Patterson grant. “Conducting research is a great hands-on experience for dietetic and nutrition majors,” Brech said. “The work is an ongoing project, so eventually the summer research of several students is combined into a manuscript for publication consideration. My job is to guide the student through the research process each summer.”
“It was a great way to fulfill a research requirement for future schooling, and it was one of the most entertaining summer jobs I have ever had,” Baldwin said. “You never know what children are going to say!” She presented her research at the end of the summer for the Ouachita science department and will also present her work at the Arkansas Dietetic Association Conference in Little Rock.
Each student participating in this program is able to gain knowledge in many areas that they can apply not only to their studies now but also to their future careers. “Through this project I learned that it is important to teach children about well-balanced diets at a young age in order to carry out a healthy lifestyle,” Baldwin concluded.
Dusty Barnette, a senior biology major from Collins, Ark., and Drew Harper, a senior biology major from Little Rock, Ark., both worked for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) as summer interns.
“I learned a lot about the nature of research in general and what all is involved in it. I also learned a few new things about the subject of my research, S. aureus,” Barnette said. “I was happy to gain firsthand lab experience which should benefit me in the future. Not only did I get to see someone carry out the necessary techniques, but I was also able to do them myself.”
Barnette and Harper presented their work at NCTR on July 29 and they look forward to presenting again at the Arkansas IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Conference in Fayetteville Oct. 15-16.
Chris Chandler, a junior biology major from Little Rock, Ark., and Gannon Lindsey, a junior biology major from Camden, Ark., both received J.D. Patterson and NASA Summer Research Grants to work with Dr. James Taylor this summer on the development of young plants at lower atmospheric pressure.
“Throughout the process I was able to gain a further understanding of microgravity effects and also the importance of said effects potentially in the future,” Chandler said. “Furthermore I was benefited through the generosity of Dr. J.D. Patterson in his financing of the research program here at Ouachita and Dr. Taylor in his mentorship. It allowed for laboratory techniques that could be useful in the near future.”
Chandler and Lindsey presented their studies to their fellow researchers and professors this summer and will also present their results at the Arkansas Space Grant Consorium/NASA meeting at the Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain. “I look forward to further opportunities to present my research at various conferences throughout the year,” Chandler concluded.
John Gomez, a junior chemistry major from Conway, Ark., was awarded an Amgen Scholarship to conduct research in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University as part of the Amgen Scholars/Stanford Summer Research Program.
“I learned basic research techniques such as cloning and microscopy,” Gomez said. “But more importantly, I learned what it means to ‘think like a scientist;’ that is, how to think analytically and creatively in order to elucidate the secrets of nature.
“This research experience has given me a better idea of what sort of career path I would be best suited for, and I have an excellent idea of what graduate school in the natural sciences is like,” Gomez added. “Furthermore, I am now aware of the many options that exist for advanced study and careers in the sciences.”
Gomez presented his work at a symposium at Stanford and will present at the Arkansas INBRE Conference as well as at the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
Zach Sparks, a senior biology major from Mt. Holly, Ark., worked in cooperation with Dr. Knight this summer through a J.D. Patterson Summer Research Grant, determining the toxicity of byproducts from the production of biodiesel.
“I feel that this has benefited me in that I now know how to conduct toxicity tests, and I have a better grasp of just how low a concentration of a toxic chemical is deadly to an environment,” Sparks said. “As stewards of the environment, it is important to know just how much we affect it.” Sparks has already presented twice this year and he will present again in mid-October at the INBRE conference and at Ouachita’s Scholars’ Day. He will continue his research through the fall semester.
All of the students involved in this summer research program gained valuable insight and research that they will each be able to share this year.
“The research program benefits every student who participates because you get firsthand experience in the research,” Harper said. “You get to see all of the aspects that go into conducting research experiments.
“There are so many things that you learn over the course of doing research that I just never thought about until after I had gotten involved in my research,” he added. “I am very happy that I had to do this research for my degree because it broadened my outlook on science and more of the different aspects of how we as scientists come to find the facts that we think are second nature now.”
“Participating in a research program like this one is quite possibly the best thing a student in the natural sciences can do for his or her academic career and was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had to date,” Gomez noted. “However, although being thrown into a diverse and intellectual community on the other side of the country gave me a taste of the exciting possibilities in science and research, this summer made me realize how much I love OBU. I couldn’t wait to get back.”
The following students will also share their results at the Arkansas INBRE conference:
Kimberly Carlton, a junior psychology major from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Kasa Pugh Cooper, a junior chemistry and biology double major from Paragould, Ark., worked with Dr. Martin Perry, Ouachita’s Nell I. Mondy Professor of Chemistry, through an INBRE grant. Carlton and Cooper will also present at the ACS meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
Kendra Gann Leslie, a senior biology major from Manila, Ark., and Tanner Hammond, a senior biology major from El Dorado, Ark., worked with Dr. Joe Bradshaw, Ouachita’s W.D. and Alice Burch Professor of Chemistry and Pre-Medical Studies, to research photodynamic therapy, a new method of cancer detection and treatment as well as possible treatment for macular degeneration. They worked through J.D. Patterson and NASA Summer Research Grants. Leslie and Hammond will also present at the ACS meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
Whitley Hoppe, a senior biology major from Montgomery, Texas, and Colmon Massey, a senior biology and chemistry double major from McGehee, Ark., worked with Dr. Lori Hensley, OBU assistant professor of biology, through INBRE grants to research treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a common bone cancer in children. Massey will also present at the ACS meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
Joseph Levy, a junior chemistry and biology double major from Little Rock, Ark., received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship sponsored by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics to work at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences pharmacology and toxicology department. Levy will also present at the ACS meeting in Anaheim, Calif.
Jeremiah Nugent, a senior biology major from Wynne, Ark., and Lindsey Pearson, a senior biology major from Conway, Ark., received J.D. Patterson and NASA Summer Research Grants to work with Dr. Nathan Reyna, OBU assistant professor of biology. They were working to establish the viability of using plants as a model system to study signaling pathways in animals.
Matthew Pope, a junior biology major from Shreveport, La., received a summer research grant from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center to study the cancer-killing adenoviruses. In addition to presenting at the Arkansas INBRE meeting, he will present at the 6th Annual Academic Surgical Congress in Huntington Beach, Calif.
By Meg Gosser