Biology students present research at regional science conference

Sydney Allen (right) at the ASB conference
Sydney Allen (right) at the ASB conference

Four UNC Pembroke undergraduates presented research posters during a regional conference -- the 84th Annual Meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB). Three of these students, Sydney Allen, Jacqueline Swann and Limari Vasquez, researched the effects of medicinal plant extracts on the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans in Dr. Courtney Alexander’s lab. Hunter Ivey studied dietary relationships between fire ants and their potential insect mutualists and was co-mentored by Drs. Kaitlin Campbell and Lisa Kelly. The students clearly enjoyed the well-attended conference, which ran from March 23-26th in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

Sydney has worked in the Alexander Lab for the past year, but this was her first conference experience. A senior and member of the Rocket Team, Sydney worked previously in Dr. Nico Negrin Pereira’s lab. She has been accepted into a PhD program at UNC Charlotte, where she plans to do research in oncology, a nice segue to her current research – “Elderflower extract improves health of a cancer model in C. elegans.”

Jacqueline has worked in the Alexander Lab for two and a half years. She had conference experience prior to the ASB conference, presenting her findings by way of two UNCP RISE symposia and last year’s annual meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Science. Her ASB poster was entitled, “Investigating the effects of elder flower on Parkinson’s disease in C. elegans.”  A senior in the Biology Department, Jacqueline would like to work as a research technician in a neuroscience laboratory after graduation.

Limari is a junior who has worked in the Alexander Lab for two years. The ASB conference is her second conference experience, having also presented for a RISE symposium. As a winner of a Humphrey Travel Award, Limari was able to present her research poster, “Rabbit tobacco improves short-term memory,” for the ASB conference. Her post-graduation plans are to pursue a master’s degree in biology.

Hunter is a sophomore and UNCP COMPASS scholar who has worked in the Campbell/Kelly Lab for two years. He presented his research poster (“Understanding connections between diets of honeydew Insects and fire ants in longleaf pine savannas of North Carolina”) last fall for a RISE symposium and for a conference of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). Humphrey Travel Awards funded his travel to both the ESA and ASB conferences. He enjoys ecology and working with insects, but he is still exploring his options for graduate studies.

A highlight of the ASB conference was the plenary talk by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ed Yong, a science writer for The Atlantic and author of two books, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and An Immense World. His talk focused on the fascinating (and sometimes, seemingly bazaar) sensory perceptions of animals. The Association of Southeastern Biologists is a professional organization that promotes education and research in the biological sciences while creating a congenial forum for networking and sharing scientific knowledge.