UNC Pembroke Students Sweep Awards at State Conference

UNCP Student Awardees

Students and faculty from UNC Pembroke factored prominently at this year's annual meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS).  Six students won awards for outstanding presentations (pictured above).  The meeting also assumed special significance for the University, as Dr. Maria Santisteban was handed the gavel, becoming President of the Academy for 2015-2016.

Wake Forest Biotech Place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, hosted the event on 27-28 March 2015.  This was the Academy's 112th annual meeting, and the theme "Innovation in Research," was quite fitting, given the meeting venue. 

Each year, the Collegiate Academy of the NC Academy of Science (CANCAS) bestows Derieux Awards to those undergraduate students whose presentations are most outstanding.  UNC Pembroke students Justin Branch, Sara McEwan, Cary Mundell, Morgan Pait, Mycah Sewell (pictured below), and Marcus Sherman received awards this year.  Four of these students worked in Dr. Ben Bahr's Alzheimer's Disease Research Laboratory.  Award categories and presentation titles are listed at the bottom of this webpage.

Mycah Sewell

Meeting Events:

The meeting opened on the evening of Friday, March 27th, by way of a poster session.  Later that evening, Dr. Christian Felder gave the plenary talk, entitled "Recent Advances in Drug Discovery: The Importance of Academic-Industrial Partnerships."  Dr. Felder is a Research Fellow in the Neuroscience Division at Eli Lilly & Company in Indianapolis.  Saturday events included a Student Academy (NCSAS) poster session, oral presentations, and several special sessions and workshops.  Dr. Jennifer Elisseeff delivered the keynote address - "Regenerative Biomaterials for Tissue Reconstruction."  Dr. Elisseeff is with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

COMPASS Group and Dr. Maria Santisteban

Members of the UNC Pembroke community who attended the meeting included Dr. Robert Poage and Professor Sailaja Vallabha (Director and Co-director of the RISE Program, respectively), and Drs. Lisa Kelly and Dennis McCracken of the Biology Department.  Most of the UNCP students in attendance were supported by either the RISE Program, by the new COMPASS Scholarship Program, which is under the leadership of Dr. Santisteban (pictured above), or by the PURC Center.  All nine of the COMPASS program's first cohort of sophomore students participated in the meeting: Sharon Ayioka, Brandi Guffey, Quaison Guilchrist, Christy Henderson, K'Yana McLean, Alex Miles, David Petersen, Katherine Rentschler, and Lanisha Simon.  Other student participants included: Aaron Byrd, Alex Foster, Carlisha Hall, Alexander McGirt, Caleb Stubbs, Haylee Trotter, and Catherine Wilson.

Carlisha Hall Dr. Robert Poage

The afternoon's annual business meeting drew to a close as outgoing President James Fuller of IntelliGENETICS handed the gavel to Dr. Santisteban.  As Academy President, Dr. Santisteban will preside over five meetings of the Board of Directors.  She will also preside over next year's annual meeting, which is scheduled for 1-2 April 2016 at Methodist University.  Dr. Santisteban served as President Elect during the past year. She did a fabulous job as the Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee in 2013, when the University hosted the 110th Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Science.

Rise Students David Guzman and Students

Wake Forest Biotech Place was a memorable venue for the annual meeting, striking for both its attractive arched glass atrium -- reaching four stories in height -- and for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  Wake Forest Biotech Place AtriumMoreover, the Biotech Place is a stimulating atmosphere for cutting edge research, hosting scientists from Wake Forest School of Medicine and from private companies.  The annual meeting finally drew to a close during the evening's Banquet and Awards Ceremony.


RISE Program ParticipantsPoster Presentations (UNC Pembroke Student Winners of Derieux Awards):

  • First place in Immunology, Microbiology & Molecular Biology -- SARA McEWAN, Heather Romine, Vidyanand G. Shukla, Spyridon P. Nikas, Alexandros Makriyannis, and Ben A. Bahr. Testing endocannabinoid enhancement for protection against paraoxon-induced oxidative damage and corresponding synaptic decline in rats.
  • Second place (tie) in Behavioral & Health Sciences, Cell Development -- MORGAN PAIT, Lyndsie Elliott, Sarah Ruiz, Heather Romine, JodiAnne Wood, Alexandros Makriyannis, and Ben A. Bahr. Further Development of Z-Phe-Ala-diazomethylketone (PADK) for Alzheimer’s Disease: Oral Dosing Increases Active Cathepsin B in Brain without Causing Adverse Effects.
  • Second place (tie) in Behavioral & Health Sciences, Cell Development -- JUSTIN BRANCH and Ben A. Bahr. Testing whether the Lysosomal Modulator PADK is involved in the Lysosome-to-Nucleus pathway that promotes longevity.
  • Second place in Zoology, Ecology and Environmental Science -- MYCAH SEWELL, Haylee A. Trotter, and Lisa Kelly. Colony Social Forms of Invasive Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta) in Wetlands of North Carolina.
  • Third place in Immunology, Microbiology & Molecular Biology -- CARY MUNDELL, Aaron Byrd, Sarah N Campion, Amy Bataille, Jose E. Manautou, and Ben A Bahr. Analysis of GST Specific Activity in Aged Mice Treated with PADK.

Marcus ShermanOral Presentations (UNC Pembroke Student Winner of a Derieux Award):

  • Second place in Genetics and Molecular Biology -- MARCUS SHERMAN (pictured above) and Conner I. Sandefur. Differential genomic profiling of Solenopsis invicta Buren subtypes via gene counter-regulation and functional annotation.

COMPASS Students and NCAS President Jim Fuller

Pictured above: Outgoing NCAS President James Fuller and COMPASS Students

Some Photos are Courtesy of Andrew Steele (NCAS Photographer) and Maria Santisteban

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