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Honors Students to Present Research at State Capitol

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Monday, February 4th, 2013

Seven students to participate in poster presentations of STEM research
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    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Seven University of Arkansas Honors College students will present posters of their research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Feb. 6, in the state capitol rotunda in Little Rock. Students from across the university were nominated by their faculty mentors, and the office of the vice provost for research and economic development collected and forwarded the nominations to the STEM Posters-at-the-Capital committee for consideration. The seven U of A students will join more than 90 other undergraduate students from 14 Arkansas colleges and universities who will talk about their scientific work in lay terms with elected state officials, the media and members of the general public.
    The U of A honors students, in close collaboration with their faculty mentors, are making real contributions through their undergraduate research. They are investigating novel, advanced topics, such as microbubbles that break up blood clots and a hand-held device that can identify toxins in groundwater or detect diseases in a drop of blood.
    “The University of Arkansas strives to create a robust environment for undergraduate research, and these posters are proof of that,” said Jim Rankin, vice provost for research and economic development. The event is sponsored by the University of Central Arkansas, Henderson State University, and the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority.
The U of A student presenters include:

   Emily Crossfield, from Little Rock, is an honors chemistry major in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Her faculty mentor is T.K.S. Kumar, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
   Crossfield’s research has the potential to purify proteins on a large scale at low cost, which would be useful in drug manufacturing. She is working to purify and characterize a clone of a portion of Fibroblast growth factors (FGF), proteins that promote cell growth and differentiation in a wide variety of cells and tissues. Because the clone also may be used to regulate cell growth, Crossfield’s research may also have a potential use in the treatment of cancer. Crossfield hopes to continue research while practicing medicine. She has received a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship and Honors College Research Grant in support of her research.

   Kanesha Day, from Conway, is an honors biochemistry major in Fulbright College; her faculty mentor is Matthias McIntosh, professor of biochemistry.
   Day is part of a team that is working to replicate a molecule produced by living organisms, called Antascomicin B, which may be useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and possibly cancer, as well. Antascomicin B is found in very small amounts in nature. If it can be synthesized and produced on a large scale it will be possible for researchers to further test its effectiveness and possibly formulate it into a useful medication. Day is also pursuing a minor in drama, and will appear in her second role onstage this spring. In her spare time, she serves as secretary of the University of Arkansas chapter of the NAACP.

   Kristin Kovach, from Little Rock, is an honors physics major in Fulbright College; her faculty mentor is Gregory Salamo, Distinguished Professor of physics.
   Kovach’s research focuses on microbubbles, a new technique that may be useful in dissolving blood clots, increasing drug permeability in the body, and delivering drugs to targeted areas of the body. Microbubbles are made from serum albumin and dextrose, and are so small that millions of them look like milky fog in a syringe. They can be injected into the bloodstream without harm, and then ultrasound may be applied to the bubbles at a location of interest. Kovach is using an atomic force microscope to gain a complete understanding of the mechanical properties of the microbubbles. She received an EPSCoR Fellowship Grant in support of her research, and participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign last summer. She plans to pursue graduate studies in physics.

   Padma Manavazhahan, from Bentonville, is an honors biochemistry sophomore and Bodenhamer Fellow in Fulbright College; Paul Adams, associate professor of biochemistry, is her faculty mentor.
   Manavazhahan is studying proteins that regulate cell growth and could potentially contribute to research on diseases marked by abnormal cell proliferation, such as cancer and tuberous sclerosis. Her work focuses on Ras homology enriched in brain (Rheb), a regulator protein that cycles between active and inactive forms, in effect functioning as an “on/off” switch in cell growth. The protein is controlled in part by interaction with a second protein that stimulates cell growth. Her research is aimed at better understanding the details of this interaction. Manavazhahan has studied abroad in Ghana and Belize and plans to pursue a career in medicine.

   Preston Scrape, from Jonesboro, is an honors chemistry and math double major in Fulbright College; Ingrid Fritsch, professor of chemistry, serves as his faculty mentor.
   Scrape is helping to develop a hand-held device that could conduct on-the-spot diagnosis and monitoring. He is tackling one of the tough problems inherent in developing such a small-scale tool: how to push fluid through channels the width of a human hair. He is working to refine a technique that uses ion currents and magnets to pull fluids to specific spots in hand-held devices. Scrape has received a SURF grant and will present his research at the annual meeting of the Electrochemical Society in Toronto, Canada in May. He plans to pursue graduate studies in chemistry.

   Jimmy Vo, from Fort Smith, is a senior biomedical engineering major and Honors College Fellow in the College of Engineering; David Zaharoff, assistant professor of biomedical engineering is his faculty mentor.
   Vo’s honors thesis research focuses on prevention of breast cancer metastasis through the use of Interleukin-12, a protein that stimulates the body’s immune system to attack a range of cancerous tumors. He received the Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award from the American Association for Cancer Research and was named a Goldwater Scholar in 2012. He has studied abroad in Belize and India and completed a research internship at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht in Berlin, Germany last summer. He is preparing to submit his research for publication and plans to pursue a career in medical research and clinical practice. He has received two SURF grants and three Honors College Dean’s Travel Grants.

   Hans Wang, from Russellville, is an honors chemistry major in Fulbright College; Paul Adams is his faculty mentor.
   Wang’s research into regulator proteins may eventually prove useful in detecting and treating cancer. He is studying the catalytic region of Phosphodiesterase 4D (PDE4D) and how it interacts with Ras homology enriched in brain (Rheb). Both of these regulator proteins are involved in cell growth. Wang will travel to India on a medical mission trip this summer; he plans to pursue a career in medicine. His research has been supported by a SURF grant.

Jim Rankin, vice provost
Research and Economic Development

Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College