Undergraduate Researchers in Bahr Lab win Conference Awards

(left to right) Dr. Ben Bahr, Mercedes Dos Santos, Dr. Karen Farizatto, and Jared Tuton
(left to right) Dr. Ben Bahr, Mercedes Dos Santos, Dr. Karen Farizatto, and Jared Tuton

Undergraduate researchers Mercedes Dos Santos and Jared Tuton won awards for their oral presentations during the 117th Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Science.  Their presentations, based on research in Ben Bahr’s Alzheimer’s Disease Laboratory, were judged in the “Cell & Molecular Biology, Microbiology, and Physiology” section of the Collegiate Academy of the North Carolina Academy of Science (CANCAS). 

Mercedes won second place for her presentation “Boosting the cellular garbage disposal: enhancing lysosomes can lower amyloid-β and alleviate the cognitive decline in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease,” which was mentored by Dr. Ben Bahr.  Jared won 3rd place for his presentation “Evidence organophosphate-mediated synaptopathology is governed by neuron-specific β1 integrin responses,” which was co-authored by Michael Almeida and Dr. Karen Farizatto.  Both students were bestowed a John Bewley Derieux Research Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. 

According to Dr. Bahr, “The benefit of undergraduate research programs is especially evident when you have researchers like Mercedes and Jared that often will push our Biotech research team outside the box. Their young brains, trained at UNCP for critical thinking, are helping to drive new ideas, ingenuity, and intellectual inquiry.  Dr. Farizatto said this about her mentee -- “Jared Tuton has shown a high scientific inquisitiveness and drive that resulted in this award. His keen interest in research, engagement, and dedication has made important contributions to the neuroscience field. I am so proud of him and every student that daily enrich our research Lab.”  The Bahr Lab has mentored more than 150 undergraduate researchers.

Students from across the state participated in the annual conference, which was hosted by Lenoir-Rhyne University on March 12-13th.  Because of the COVID pandemic, last year’s conference was cancelled, and this year’s conference was held in a virtual format for the first time ever.  You can read more about Mercedes and Jared below.  Congratulations to these students for their excellent work!

Mercedes Dos Santos 

Mercedes Dos Santos is a senior at UNCP who is majoring in biology with a molecular concentration. During her time as a student, she has consistently made the Chancellor’s List. Mercedes has been interning underneath Dr. Bahr and Mr. Michael Almeida at the Bahr Lab, researching Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative related disorders. She has learned a tremendous amount of information and useful techniques with their guidance. Upon graduation, Mercedes plans to pursue an MS in genetic counseling.  

Jared Tuton

Jared Tuton is a junior at UNCP who is majoring in biology with a biomedical emphasis. He has been doing research with Drs. Bahr and Farizatto for about two years now, and with their support and guidance, he says he has grown tremendously as a scientist. He plans on pursuing either an MD, an MD/PhD, or simply a PhD, but he has not decided which graduate program to pursue, because he has "fallen in love with research."  He is interested primarily in neuroscience and more specifically, the pathology of various neurodegenerative diseases.

Jared also has the distinction of being a recipient of a North Carolina Space Grant scholarship for 2020-2021.