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UNCP Students Explore Costa Rica (2015)

Costa Rica School Children and UNCP Group

This summer, Dr. Jane Haladay (American Indian Studies) joined Dr. Debby Hanmer (Biology), along with eight undergraduate and graduate students on a 14-day study abroad course, The Natural History & Indigenous Ecologies of Costa Rica (BIO 3025-001/AISS 2000-400).  During daily field trips and excursions to rainforests, organic farms and sustainable coffee plantations, the students studied Costa Rica’s diverse biological ecosystems, environmental conservation ethic, and the impact of eco-tourism on communities.  The students also learned about the histories, cultures, and languages of the indigenous peoples in Costa Rica.  The class’s community service project included a visit to the Maleku Indigenous Reserve, where UNCP students provided school supplies and a soccer ball to the school children and visited with tribal members about Maleku history and culture.  This study abroad course to Costa Rica is offered through the Biology and American Indian Studies departments during the summer in odd years.

Tropic rainforest of Costa Rica

Article Submitted by Tonya Locklear

Costa Rica volcano Dr. Debby Hanmer in Costa Rica

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Dr. Conner Sandefur Joins Biology Department (fall 2015)

Dr. Conner Sandefur

The Department of Biology's newly hired Assistant Professor Conner Sandefur received his PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Michigan. There, he investigated the formation of toxic protein aggregates in protein misfolding diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's disease and diabetes). He selected to train in bioinformatics and computational biology in part because of the huge increase in publicly available (i.e. free) experimental data online. Dr. Sandefur believes these datasets provide a new way to do impactful research in human disease at universities like UNC Pembroke (UNCP), where large biomedical research labs may be infrequent but talented, hard working and passionate students are not infrequent.

After obtaining his PhD, Dr. Sandefur completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Seeding Postdoctoral Innovators in Research and Education (SPIRE) program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. SPIRE provides a mentored research and teaching experience for biomedical scientists who are invested in increasing diversity in STEM. At Chapel Hill, Dr. Sandefur received training in systems and epithelial cell biology, research which he will continue at UNCP. Specifically, students in the Sandefur lab will investigate COPD and diabetes - diseases with high incidence in rural communities - through mathematical modeling and 'big data' analysis. Interested students and faculty collaborators are encouraged to contact Dr. Sandefur about opportunities.

Dr. Sandefur is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, a southeastern American Indian tribe now located in south central Oklahoma. This fall, he will be teaching Microbiology lab and Genetics lecture and lab. In his free time, Dr. Sandefur can be found fishing and spending time with his family and friends. He also thoroughly enjoys visiting with people and can be tweeted at (@oshehoma), emailed (conner.sandefur@uncp.edu), found online (www.sandefurlab.com) or in his office (2230 Oxendine).

Dr. Conner Sandefur

Psi Lambda Inducts New Members for 2015

The Psi Lambda chapter of TriBeta inducted new members during its annual banquet and induction ceremony.  The ceremony was hosted by chapter officers -- Catheryn Wilson, Mycah Sewell, and Marcus Sherman.  Dr. Dennis McCracken performed double duty as both the faculty advisor for the chapter and as the evening's speaker.  Family, friends, and members of the Biology faculty attended the ceremony, which was held on Thursday, 16 April 2015, in the University Center. 

TriBeta is a national honor society for students of the biological sciences. The Psi Lambda Chapter was chartered in 2002, as a result of an initiative led by undergraduate student, Susan Severson.  Click here to view the eligibility requirements for TriBeta.

Photographs Courtesy of Leon Jernigan

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Kids in the Garden Earth Day Event

Funded by a grant from Duke Energy through the Office of Advancement at UNC Pembroke

Tarheel Students in the Campus Garden

Students from Tarheel Middle School visited UNC Pembroke on Earth Day (22 April 2015) to learn about plants, pollination, gardening, GPS, and insect collecting. The day included instruction led by former graduate students, Dave Wimert and Corinne Jordan, as well as instruction by Drs. Rita Hagevik, Debby Hanmer, and Lisa Kelly, and by undergraduate student, Travis Michael, who is a volunteer in the campus garden.

Tarheel Students in the Botany LabTarheel Students Learn how to Make Paper Pots

This was a wonderful opportunity for students to experience hands-on learning in the botany lab, greenhouse, herbarium, and the campus garden.  Dr. Hagevik instructed the students about pollen and flower anatomy.  Dr. Hanmer and Travis gave a tour of the greenhouse, introduced the students to vermicomposting, and showed them how to plant seeds in handmade paper pots.  Dr. Kelly showed students different types of plants that are archived in the herbarium. Dave and Corinne taught the students how to use a microscope and how to illustrate their observations inside journals. 

Tarheel Students Learn how to Make Paper PotsTarheel Students in the Herbarium

Inside the campus garden, the students used GPS units to take coordinates of their locations, while also taking photographs and observations.  The students had a busy day but a great time learning from the experts about the world of plants and insects and the importance of pollinators.

Tarheel Kids Learn to Use Microscopes Tarheel Kids in the Campus Garden

The Kids in the Garden Earth Day event was part of a grant secured by Dr. Hagevik from Duke Energy through the University’s Office of Advancement.  The grant funds enrichment and sustainability of K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) outreach programs in the state. 

Tarheel Kids in the Campus GardenTarheel Kids Walk Across Campus

For a complete itinerary of the event, click here (for a PDF file), or click here (for a MS Word file). Click here for a bee fact sheet (PDF file), compiled by graduate student, Anna Sanford. Bee facts have been obtained from http://www.pollinator.org.

Tarheel Kids in the Campus Garden

Article Contributed by Anna Sanford of UNC Pembroke's Graduate Science Education Program

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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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Science Education Club Travels to Highlands

Science Education Club Travels to Highlands Biological Station (17-19 April 2015)

Southern Appalachian Mountains

In April, students and faculty enjoyed an educational, yet fun filled, retreat to Highlands Biological Station, located in North Carolina’s Southern Appalachian Mountains.  On Friday night, students enjoyed a walk in the dark for a salamander hunt, led by undergraduate student, Lindsey Ebaugh.  Several specimens were found and identified; Dr. Andrew Ash (salamander ecologist) would be proud!  Participants enjoyed a presentation by Dr. Bruce Ezell on gravestone history, as well as a presentation by UNC Pembroke alumnus, Grant Pilkey, on his doctoral research.


The fun continued on Saturday with a hike up Whiteside Mountain, followed by information sessions given by Drs. Rita Hagevik and Bruce Ezell on invertebrate collection and identification.  Everyone searched the stream and lake around the station, egged on by the challenge to see which group could collect the most specimens.  Ghost stories were shared by campfire, making for a sleepless night for some participants. 

Highlands Group

Horticultural specialist, Russell Funderburk, gave an interesting presentation about medicinal plants on Sunday.  This led to the collection of two of the local medicinal herbs -- yellowroot and St. John’s wort.  Participants made their own tincture of yellowroot and tasted a sample of yellowroot tea.  They visited the area’s beautiful waterfalls. And they had a grand time mining for gems.  Despite the horrible weather on Saturday and Sunday, people had a fabulous time.  A special “thanks” is extended to the Biology Department for helping to sponsor the trip. 

Mining for gemsWhiteside Mountain Trail

For a complete itinerary of the trip, please click here (PDF file).

Sunset Rock

Article submitted by Anna Sanford of UNC Pembroke's Graduate Science Education Program.

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Biology Students Present Winning Posters at PURC Syposium

PURC Symposium

Undergraduate students from across the disciplines presented research posters and oral presentations during the Ninth Annual Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity (PURC) Symposium.  The PURC Symposium was held on Wednesday, 8 April 2015, in the University Annex.

Mycah Sewell Caleb Stubbs and Dr. Bob Poage

Three biology students took top honors in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) division.  Chris Long took first place for his poster, “Enhancement of the Cannabinoid Pathway Provides Protection against Seizure-Related Brain Damage.”  Chris was mentored by Dr. Ben Bahr.  Zachary Lunn took second place for his poster, “Macrohabitat Selection of Eastern Box Turtles,” as mentored by Dr. John Roe.  The third place winner was Mark Anderson, mentored by Dr. Maria Pereira, for his poster, “Establishing a Sustainable Farming Model in Southeastern North Carolina.”  For a complete list of winners, click here.

Carlisha Hall Sara McEwan

Brandi GuffeyJustin Branch

The morning began with greetings from Chancellor Kyle Carter, Dr. Rebecca Bullard-Dillard (Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Research), and Dr. Ryan Anderson (Interim Director of the PURC Progrom).  The mood was both upbeat and relaxing, as a live jazz band entertained participants. Dr. Andrea Benjamin (Assistant Professor of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill) gave the keynote address just before a break for box lunches.

Lindsey Ebaugh Brandon Blackwell

Several biology students were on hand to present their research posters, and members of the biology faculty were among the judges and guests. The Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Program funded many of the research projects, as did the PURC Program.

Catheryn Wilson Aaron Byrd

Haylee Trotter Ethan Sanford

Students who are interested in doing research with a member of the biology faculty should check out the opportunities available through the PURC Program

Dr. Patricia Sellers and Marcus Sherman Travis Michael
Zachary Lunn's poster Marcus Dial's poster

Dr. Dennis McCracken

Click here for a PDF copy of the PURC Symposium Program.

Joanna Cole

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Science Education Students Win Awards at Graduate Research Symposium

Graduate student research was showcased during the annual Graduate Research Symposium, held on Tuesday, 31 March 2015.  Research posters from multiple disciplines were displayed in the University Annex. Graduate students in Science Education who presented their research included (pictured below): Olivia Bird, Kayla Giles, Kalo Haslem, Iner Lowery, Melodi Lowery, Stephanie McNeil, Julie Phillips, and Anna Sanford.

Jennifer Spivey

Science Education posters were among the best received this year, and the student winners (and their poster titles) are listed below.

Judge’s Award:
Anna Sanford: A Survey of Pond Plankton Reveals Chydorus bicornutus Inhabiting the Southeast
Jennifer Spivey: The Effects of a Community Based Apiary on Sustainability Perceptions of Rural High School Students

Judge’s Award Honorable Mention:
Kalo Haslem: Seventh Grade Students Interests and Attitudes towards STEM and STEM Careers Through Inquiry-Based STEM Activities

The Dean’s Award for Impactful Scholarly Achievement is given to the top two students who best communicated the greater societal impacts of their research. Awardees will attend the Annual NC Graduate Education Day in Raleigh, North Carolina, on 19 May 2015.

Honorable Mention for the Dean’s Award:
Kalo Haslem: Seventh Grade Students Interests and Attitudes towards STEM and STEM Careers Through Inquiry-Based STEM Activities

Other contenders for the Dean’s Award for Impactful Scholarly Achievement were:
Melodi Renee Lowery: Fostering Students’ Knowledge and Scientific Reasoning Using Argumentation Skills through Human Genetics in a High School Biology Classroom
Kayla Giles: The Change in a Female Student’s Self-Efficacy and Understanding of a Frog’s Anatomy Before and After a Virtual Frog Dissection

Other Science Education presenters (and their poster titles) were:
Olivia Bird: Using Self-Generated Analogies to Improve Understanding of Eukaryotic Cell Structure and Function in High School Biology Students
Iner T. Lowery: The Effects of an Inquiry-Based Unit on Force and Motion on High School Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Physics
Stephanie L. McNeill: The Effects of the Exceptional Children Label on High School Students’ Science Identity
Julie Phillips: Teaching Secondary Science Using the Nature of Science and Science Argumentation: A critical Review of the Research
Judges for the symposium were: Dr. Valerie Austin (Music Education), Dr. Ki Chae (Clinical Mental Health Counseling), Dr. Renee Lamphere (Sociology and Criminal Justice), Dr. Rita Hagevik (Science Education), Dr. Roger Ladd (English Education), and Dr. Velinda Woriax (Biology).

Photographs (above) are courtesy of Dr. Rita Hagevik

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COMPASS Program Seeks Undergraduate Students

COMPASS flyer 2015

The COMPASS Scholarship Program is now accepting applications for the 2015-2016 academic year.  Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the COMPASS Program targets sophomore undergraduate students of financial need who are majoring in Biology, Biotechnology, Environmental Science or Chemistry, and provides them financial assistance from their sophomore year until graduation ($6000 per academic year).  The Program goal is to prepare students to enter either the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce or graduate/professional programs through intense mentoring and tutoring, research experience opportunities, internships, professional development, and career advising. 

To be eligible, the student must 1) be a UNC Pembroke sophomore in the fall of 2015, 2) must be majoring in Biology, Biotechnology, Environmental Science, or Chemistry, 3) have financial need per FY15 FAFSA with the UNC Pembroke Financial Aid office, 4) have a GPA of 3.0, and 5) have recommendations from two science professors.

Deadline for applications is 20 April 2015.

To apply, click here for the application webpage, OR request an application form by email from Dr. Maria Santisteban (maria.santisteban@uncp.edu),  or call Dr. Santisteban at (910) 775-4274.

Click here to visit the webpage for the COMPASS Scholarship Program and to view a promotional video.


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