UWA students awarded at Undergraduate Research Symposium

The University of West Alabama’s fourth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium featured scholarly research from a slate of the university’s top students, who have joined forces with UWA faculty mentors to conduct research in several fields, including plant biology, mycology, microbiology, cancer research, athletic training, social sciences, and computer science.

The University of West Alabama’s fourth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium featured scholarly research from a slate of the university’s top students, who have joined forces with UWA faculty mentors to conduct research in several fields, including plant biology, mycology, microbiology, cancer research, athletic training, social sciences, and computer science.

The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of West Alabama hosted its fourth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Tuesday, March 10. Several students received awards for their research projects.

“The fourth annual symposium featured double the number of presentations by UWA students compared to the  first symposium, with 38 student presenters from five departments,” said Dr. Mustafa Morsy, assistant professor of biological and environmental sciences.

“The symposium had various research projects related to plant biology, mycology, microbiology, cancer research, athletic training, social sciences, and computer science,” Morsy said.

Campus organizations and other supporters offer monetary awards to encourage student researchers. According to Morsy, the President’s Award is the highest overall value of the awards and carries a $200 cash prize. The President’s Award recipients were Krystal Aultman of Selma, Ala., and Noah Napier of Birmingham, Ala., for their project entitled “A Discovery from Within: The Search for Antibiotics.” The recipients will present their research at a national meeting.

Aultman and Napier explained that the discovery of new antibodies within the past few decades have been slim to none, and with new antibiotic resistant bacteria surfacing there is a dire need to find novel antibiotics. Recognizing this, they conducted a series of experiments on soil samples collected around the area to try to find new antibiotic-producing bacteria.

“It was an honor to receive the President’s Award for our research, and the Undergraduate Research Symposium allowed us to gain great experience for the future,” Aultman said.

The recipients of the Richard and Madoline Thurn Award are Justin Farris of Chancellor, Ala., Alison Henderson of Autaugaville, Ala., and Breanna Hynds of Winfield, Ala. This special award is given in memory of Madoline Thurn’s late husband and UWA professor emeritus, Richard Thurn.

Rebecca Carroll of Highland Home, Ala., and Chicko Jones of Meridian, Miss., received the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences Award for their project, “Gene Expression in Hardwood Trees Species Exposed to Ozone.”

Other award winners included the Provost’s Award, presented to Riley King of Demopolis, Ala., and Austin Tubbs of Selma, Ala.; the Dean’s Award, presented to Timothy Odom of Statesboro, Ga., and Kelvineisha Williams of Akron, Ala.; the Office of Sponsored Programs Award, presented to Fhallon Ware-Gilmore of Morrow, Ga.; and the Center for the Study of the Black Belt Award, presented to Manuel Grossmann of Lucerne, Switzerland.

At the awards banquet held in Bell Conference Center, keynote speaker Robert “Bob” Bazell, a professor at Yale University and former NBC Nightly New Reporter, shared stories about his experiences as one of the first network news correspondents to report on the AIDS epidemic. Earlier in the day, Bazell also explored the undergraduate research projects on exhibit. Bazell is a member of the advisory committee of UWA’s Biology Opportunities and Scholarships for Success (BOSS) program, which is funded by a grant from the National Sciences Foundation.

“We were delighted that Mr. Bazell expressed his positive impression about the high-quality research that UWA students are conducting under the direction of various UWA faculty,” Morsy said.

Also among Bazell’s professional honors and awards are five Emmys, the Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Hope Funds Award for advocacy of cancer research, and the George Foster Peabody Award, presented to him for his reporting on science and medicine, including AIDS, cancer treatment, dangers of cellular phones, and alternative modes of healthcare. He is the author of the book “HER-2: The Making of Herceptin, a Revolutionary Treatment for Breast Cancer,” published in 1998.

For more information on participation in the 2016 Undergraduate Research Symposium or biological and environmental science research opportunities at UWA, contact Dr. Mustafa Morsy via email at mmorsy@uwa.edu or call 205-652-5541.