Ouachita Baptist University professor Dr. Lori Hensley as well as three Ouachita students were recognized for outstanding work at the recent 2012 Arkansas INBRE Research Conference in Springdale, Ark. Twelve Ouachita students and seven faculty and staff members participated in the conference, with 10 students presenting research. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, was the featured speaker.
“The conference attracted more than 120 undergraduate research presentations in biology, chemistry and physics from 26 institutions in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma,” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of Ouachita’s J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences.
“Each year we send a strong cohort of students to the INBRE conference and each year they come back having been recognized by their peers as among the best the state of Arkansas has to offer,” Knight added. “We know this to be true, but it’s gratifying for them to be recognized in this way.”
Dr. Lori Hensley, associate professor of biology and holder of the J.D. Patterson Chair of Biology, was one of three faculty members invited to present at the conference. She said she was “surprised, honored and very nervous” to be chosen to speak about “Antitumor Effects of Ajulemic Acid on Ewing’s Sarcoma.” Hensley’s research focuses on the drug ajulemic acid, also known as AJA, which has shown the ability to kill the Sarcoma cells without any damaging side effects.
Ryan James, a senior biology major from Benton, Ark., had the opportunity to work under Hensley this past summer. It “fascinated me to know that somebody was curing cancer at Ouachita, in the science building, where I take classes every day,” he said.
James was also recognized at the conference for his biology poster presentation. He won third place in the biology division as well as a cash award. “I was very surprised, honestly,” he said. “I went into it with the mindset of just going to present my research and that’s it. I really didn’t know much about having awards for the presentations until I got there, much less that there were cash prizes.”
Valerie Nickel, a senior chemistry and biology double major from Richardson, Texas, also won third place for her poster in the chemistry division. “I was really excited to win,” Nickel said. “The judges who listened to me talk all told me that I had a really thorough understanding of my project.”
Nickel presented the research she did this past summer at Texas A&M. “I worked with a protein that was designed to deliver macromolecules to cells,” she explained. “The protein is a combination of different peptides, which are parts of different proteins stuck together for a specific purpose. Part of the protein is from the influenza virus, part is from HIV and another part is just a fluorescent protein, like for a marker.
“It’s hard to know how your research experience compared to others,” she added, “so the conference was a good way to figure that out.”
Tim Horton, a junior chemistry and physics double major from Arkadelphia, Ark., was one of six undergraduates selected to give an oral presentation in chemistry.
“I was very pleased when I found out I had been selected to speak because I knew that selection tends to be pretty competitive,” he said. His presentation, “Application of Computational Docking to Examine Metabolism of Chiral Drugs by CYP2C9,” was based on his research this past summer at Ouachita with Dr. Marty Perry, OBU’s Nell I. Mondy Professor of Chemistry.
“Chiral drugs make up 50 percent of all drugs on the market, so they’re pretty important to understand,” Horton explained. “CYP2C9 is a protein found in the human liver that is responsible for metabolizing many drugs. The central question of my research was based on the experimental observation that two drugs that are chiral can be taken up by the body in vastly different ways.”
In addition to James, Ouachita students who presented biology posters were: Elizabeth Blankenship, a senior biology major from Casscoe, Ark.; Adam Curlin, a senior biology major from Arkadelphia, Ark.; Skylar Hearron, a senior biology major from Monticello, Ark.; Hollyn McCarty, a senior biology and chemistry double major from Texarkana, Ark.; and Carly Oetker, a senior biology major from Houston, Texas.
In addition to Nickel, Ouachita students who presented chemistry posters were Shelby Cobb, a senior chemistry major from Pine Bluff, Ark., and Crista Riggs, a junior chemistry and biology double major from Edmond, Okla.
For more information about Ouachita’s Patterson School of Natural Sciences or INBRE, contact Dr. Tim Knight at email@example.com or (870) 245-5528.
By Ryleigh Salmon