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Biology

Dakota Lee

Student

Student Degree

B.S.

Student Major

Biology with Biomedical Emphasis

Student Hometown

Cheraw, SC

Biography:

My name is Dakota Lee, and I am currently a sophomore attending UNC Pembroke. I am also a member of the UNCP research program RISE as well as COMPASS. I am from the small town of Cheraw in South Carolina, and I aspire one day to aid in the development of more advanced and easily accessible prosthetics and bionic devices.

Why did I choose to attend UNCP?

I chose UNCP because it is close to my own hometown while offering amazing research and educational opportunities.

What do I like best about UNCP?

I enjoy how close the community of UNCP is. Many colleges are large and the people are hardly connected, if at all so.  However, there are many friendly faces here and helpful people who have made my stay an enjoyable and productive one.

What are my research experiences?

My current research is in RISE alongside Dr. Conner Sandefur, with the goal of determining the antimicrobial properties of local plants traditionally made into teas by Native American peoples of the Pembroke region.

What are my post-graduation plans?

After graduation I plan to go to graduate school and possibly get a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

Dakota LeeDakota Lee

Cheyenne Lee

Student

Student Degree

B.S.

Student Major

Biology

Student Hometown

Cheraw, SC

Biography:

I am a first generation Native American student from the Pee Dee tribe of South Carolina.  I come from a mostly blue collar background with one grandfather being a construction worker, another being a farmer, and my own father being a mechanical engineer by experience.  My mother was a cosmetologist until she could no longer use her hands to do her work; yet she is still one of the most hardworking people I know.  I live just across the North Carolina and South Carolina border in Chesterfield County, where I attended an impoverished high school with little research opportunity.  My family and I have had to work quite hard to be able to afford my schooling at UNCP. I worked at the INA Bearing factory in Cheraw for my first summer, as a rising sophomore, just to be able to help pay for one semester.  Despite living nearby, I have to pay out-of-state tuition, and I have a twin brother who also attends UNCP, making our costs double.  Thanks to my interests in biomedical research, I was able to apply to both the RISE and COMPASS programs on campus and am extremely grateful to be a part of both, as they have served to lift and guide me towards my ultimate goal of one day earning a PhD degree and being called “Dr. Lee.”  Without the guidance of crucial UNCP faculty, I honestly would have no idea how to accomplish the goals I have set for myself.  I hope they know how grateful I am to them.

Why did I choose to attend UNCP?

I chose to attend UNCP to further myself as a scientist.  I heard people say that UNCP had great faculty who would be extremely willing to help one-on-one with students who really wanted to learn, and they were definitely not wrong.  The University is also close to home, and family is extremely important to me so I love being nearby.

What do I like best about UNCP?

Honestly, I like the UNCP faculty the best.  I am heavily biased toward the Biology Department because of the immense amount of kindness the faculty has shown me, but I have also had great experiences in departments outside of my own field of study.  Most of the professors are extremely patient with my constant questions.  Without the help of the science professors, I would not be able to attend UNCP.

What are my research experiences?

I work in Dr. Conner Sandefur’s Lab, where I am currently researching the antimicrobial effects of Native American (Lumbee) teas made from plants around the area.  We hope that this research may lead to a way to control the gut microbiota in diabetic patients, and result in a treatment for diabetes.  Research has been extremely valuable to me, even during the one semester I have worked.  Already I am able to see how techniques I have learned in a real lab, instead of a classroom, have helped me excel in my actual lab courses, no matter the field of science.  I will hopefully have some off-campus research experience come the summer of 2017, and I am excited to see how the additional experience will reflect in my lab courses.

What are my post-graduation plans?

After graduation, I plan to do research!  Somehow, someway, somewhere hopefully in graduate school, I will be researching something important that will trickle down through the population and into high school textbooks, keeping the upcoming populations smart and ready to battle the next big disease that rears its head.  Hopefully I will be working in some kind of immunology or microbiology lab, but currently I am shopping around for potential graduate schools, and am not ashamed to say that I have no idea where I will end up.

Cheyenne LeeCheyenne Lee

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Frederick Feely II

Student

Student Degree

B.S.

Student Major

Biology with a Molecular Biology track

Student Hometown

Durham, NC

Biography:

I've always had a fascination with detail and the mechanics of how things work. There is an incredible amount of knowledge to be learned, and I have seen that through science, one can gain insights to this knowledge. I also have an affinity for detail.  Because of this, I took a liking to physics and chemistry in both late middle school and high school. When presented with biology, I became passionate about how subatomic particles and fields result in the massive amount of complexity found in biology. 

My major interest is the use of biophysical, pharmaceutical, and biochemical techniques for drug analysis and gene therapy. I've always been fascinated about how viruses, despite not being alive (as defined by the majority of scientists), have developed complex mechanisms for bypassing defenses of immunity and have the ability to incorporate genes of their hosts to further their own survival. 

I was given the opportunity to conduct research with the RISE Program at UNC Pembroke during the summer of 2016.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Conner Sandefur, I've gained experience with a variety of microbiological laboratory techniques, as well as insight into the process of composing a new project and experiencing the process of composing a project and researching new methodologies for each experiment. 

Why did I choose to attend UNCP?

I chose to attend UNCP based on the capacity for strong mentor-student relationships. Because of the University’s smaller size, faculty and students are able to work together in most of the majors. This is an opportunity that many other schools often lack. 

What do I like best about UNCP?

As mentioned above, I like that faculty mentors are able to take an active part in students’ development. 

What are my post-graduation plans?

After graduate school, I envision myself working to create new pharmaceuticals that combat or aid in studying different viruses that are contracted throughout the world. 

 Frederick Feely in longleaf pine savannaFrederick Feely and Sandefur Lab visit natural area
Frederick Feely in longleaf pine savanna (left photo) and sampling medicinal plants with the Sandefur Lab (right photo)

 

 

 

Katherine Rentschler

Student

Student Degree

B.S.

Student Major

Biology - Environmental Biology track

Student Hometown

Pinehurst, NC

Biography:

I transferred to UNC Pembroke from Drew University and Sandhills Community College in 2014. I started college as a biological anthropology and music double major in 2010, but had to drop out after my freshman year because of unfortunate financial circumstances. For the next three years I worked full time to save money and take courses at the local community college. During that time, I became very ill and I did not think I would ever get the chance to finish my bachelor’s degree. Then, a neighbor and close friend suggested applying to UNCP. I applied during the spring of 2014 and was happy when I found out I would have a chance to complete my bachelor’s degree.

Knowing not to take my education for granted, I worked very diligently and tried to seize every opportunity available to me. I became involved in research and extracurricular programs such as RISE and COMPASS. I was also able to get involved with hippocampal electrophysiology research at UNC Chapel Hill through the SPIRE undergraduate summer research program. I like the fact that I am appreciated for my efforts despite my socioeconomic status, and I have been able to push myself to make a difference in the academic community at UNCP. During my time here, I have become interested in environmental neurotoxicology, and in taking environmental biology courses with biomedical, psychology and chemistry based electives. In addition, I work in the William C. Friday Laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Ben Bahr. The research I am involved with primarily focuses on Alzheimer’s drug discovery.  I hope to eventually get a PhD degree in either neuroscience or toxicology, focusing on the role of neurotoxins in neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Why Did I Choose UNCP?

I chose UNCP because of the small class sizes and research opportunities. Also, it is relatively close to home and offers a vast array of courses in biology and chemistry.

What Do I Like Most About UNCP?

The thing I like most about UNCP is the opportunities that are available in the STEM majors. I also enjoy the fact that the faculty members are generally supportive and want to see you succeed, allowing you to be able to realize your future goals and dreams.

What Are My Post-graduation Plans?

I plan to apply to several different schools in North Carolina and the northeastern United States. I have started applications for neuroscience PhD programs at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University. I also plan on applying to East Carolina’s Environmental Health graduate program. A couple other schools I am considering are Penn State University and University of Cincinnati, which have cognitive neuroscience programs.

 Katherine Rentschler and Bahr Lab Katherine Rentschler and Bahr Lab

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Dr. Crystal Walline Joins Biology Faculty

Dr. Crystal Walline

Assistant Professor Crystal Walline received her Bachelor of Science in Experimental Psychology with a minor in Chemistry from Millikin University (IL). She then earned her PhD degree in Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology from Purdue University. Additionally, she completed the requirements for the Integrated Program in Neuroscience. For her graduate research, Dr. Walline used molecular biology and neuropharmacology techniques to investigate the structure and function of the serotonin transporter (SERT), the protein target in the brain for antidepressants (e.g. Prozac) as well as drugs of abuse (e.g. cocaine and amphetamines).

For her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Walline wanted to gain experience in translational research, where experiments seek to translate basic scientific findings into therapeutic interventions and to increase understanding of important disease processes. Having acquired an interest in understanding the immune system, she completed two postdoctoral fellowships in immunology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The first studied the involvement of various cells and chemicals in the development of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disorder where immune cells attack the myelin sheath that protects the brain and spinal cord. The second postdoctoral fellowship investigated the way in which the innate and adaptive branches of the immune system work together to regulate pulmonary (lung) inflammation associated with asthma and how respiratory viral infections aggravated signs and symptoms of asthma.

While Dr. Walline enjoys working in the lab, her passion is teaching and mentoring students. She taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Monmouth College from 2013-2016. Feeling the need to escape the brutal midwestern winters, she sought refuge in the beautiful state of North Carolina. Dr. Walline loves her cats (Asha, Connie & Baldur), using her hand and power tools to repair and build household items, and doing genealogy research. Additionally, she enjoys traveling, photography and learning about Viking history.

Dr. Crystal Walline (right) and studentDr. Crystal Walline (right) and student.

Article Submitted by Dr. Crystal Walline

Web manager's note: Dr. Walline joined the Biology faculty in fall 2016.  She is currently teaching undergraduate courses in Immunology and in Anatomy & Physiogy I.

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Dr. Andrew Ash presents Salamander Research for Highlands Conference

Dr. Andrew Ash

Although his field studies are conducted under cover of darkness, Dr. Andrew Ash’s research sheds new light on foraging patterns in salamanders of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains.  Dr. Ash has studied guilds of salamanders in mountain forests for more than 30 years.  Because of the nocturnal habits of his focal species, Plethodon metcalfi, he sets to work when most people are settling down for the evening.  Broad overlap in the diets of P. metcalfi and four co-occurring species of salamanders indicates competition for food.  Because of its large populations, P. metcalfi would appear to dominate these shared food resources.  Dr. Ash presented his research during the Special Highlands Conference on Plethodontid Salamander Biology.

Dr. Ash was one of more than 60 researchers who presented talks and posters for the conference, which took place over a four-day period (4-7 August 2016) at Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, North Carolina.  Nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, the station has hosted several plethodontid conferences during its 90-year history.  When still president of the Highlands Biological Foundation, Dr. Ash prepared the foreword to the 1998 plethodontid conference proceedings; in it he wrote that each conference “was characterized by exchange of information and ideas, as well as the formation of new friendships and the renewal of old ones. Events such as these are the milestones by which we measure our academic lives.”

Dr. Ash served on the Board of Directors and on the Board of Scientific Advisors for Highlands Biological Station for several years.  These positions were natural fits for him, given his many years of research based at the station.  His research papers on salamanders have appeared in such peer-reviewed science journals as Conservation Biology and Journal of Herpetology

Having strong ties to the environment, Dr. Ash was instrumental in designating the Lumber River as a National Wild and Scenic River and in launching the Environmental Science program at UNC Pembroke.  In recent years, he has served as Co-Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded HERP Project that targeted school children in rural communities, offering them hands-on opportunities to study salamanders, snakes, frogs, and other herps.  He served formerly as Chair of the Biology Department.  Today, his main teaching responsibilities for the Department include Principles of Ecology, Biogeography, Biometrics, and Soils and Hydrology.

Dr. Andrew Ash and corn snake
Dr. Andrew Ash shows children a colorful corn snake

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Archive for 2015-2016

Dr. Maria Santisteban Aids Science Learning in Public Schools (2016)

Dr. Maria Santisteban and Moore County teachersDr. Maria Santisteban (holding bottle) and Moore County school teachers enjoy a light moment

For the past two years, professors at UNC Pembroke have enriched the science curriculum for Moore County schools.  Dr. Maria Santisteban is one of a handful of UNCP professors involved in the Math Science Partnership that brings Moore County teachers to campus for two weeks in the summer. On campus, 55 teachers from elementary and middle schools (17 of Moore County’s 23 public schools) rotate through hands-on activities in the life sciences, earth sciences, and physical sciences.

Dr. Maria Santisteban demonstrates photosynthesis exerciseDr. Santisteban demonstrates a photosynthesis exercise

Dr. Santisteban shares her expertise in the life sciences, and she develops instructional materials and kits that enable teachers to develop lesson plans and student activities. Preparation of materials demands a big investment of her time. Dr. Bill Brandon and Prof. Sailaja Vallabha (Chemistry and Physics Department) handle the physical sciences, and Drs. Martin Farley and Daren Nelson (Geology and Geography Department) handle the earth sciences.  Dr. Santisteban and other faculty members disseminate more information during the academic year by visiting partner schools and by participating in seven workshops held at the Community Learning Center in Carthage. As Director of the UNCP COMPASS Scholarship Program, Dr. Santisteban provides a host of out-of-classroom STEM experiences for COMPASS scholars.

Dr. Martin FarleyDr. Martin Farley provides instruction in the earth sciences

The Math Science Partnership is the result of a three-year grant “More Alignment of Science Standards (MASS),” which is designed to bolster teachers’ knowledge of content and to improve student success in the classroom.  The UNCP campus was a natural choice for the partnership, given its strong science programs and its existing ties to Moore County Schools. 

Top two photographs are courtesy of Mildred T. Bankhead-Smith Ed.D. Bottom photograph is courtesy of Maria Santisteban. 

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David J. Pedersen

Student

Student Degree

B.S.

Student Major

Biology

Student Hometown

Honolulu, HI

Biography:

My interest in science started early in life. In fact, it was more of a general curiosity exhibited by most young children. Thankfully, my parents encouraged my need to know how things worked and why they worked. Growing up I enjoyed watching Mr. Wizard (revealing my age now...), a television show about a scientist performing various experiments for school-aged children. As I transitioned to junior high school, I discovered a deeper love for science while dissecting frogs. Then in high school I enrolled in an honors biology course where I learned more about biological processes with more dissections.

While traveling down my academic road, I met a few detours, many of them near graduation. I took the scenic route for about 15 years, as I worked diligently in the automotive industry. It was over the course of those years that I rediscovered my interest in science and found that my contribution for society lay in the field of medicine.

After trading a surfboard for a TI-84 calculator, I packed up my belongings and boarded a plane for California. A month prior I had shipped my truck to Los Angeles. Upon landing in LA, I loaded up my truck and drove across America. My mom still lived in North Carolina, and she asked me to move back in with her. She has been my number one supporter!

I started my college experience at Fayetteville Technical Community College. It was a nice place for a non-traditional student to ease back into the rigors of education. I spent one year there adjusting to the atmosphere: learning how much the Internet has transformed schooling. It was a welcome break from working 70 hours per week, but being a full-time student required some lifestyle changes. Thankfully my zoology professor, Mr. Martin, shared a flyer with me about COMPASS at UNC Pembroke. Joining this research-based program would grant me privileges to a vast network of scientific communities. Almost equally important, it would fund the remainder of my undergraduate years!

Transitioning from FTCC to UNCP was exciting, but it brought a set of new challenges. With the guidance and support from Dr. Santisteban, the Principle Investigator for COMPASS (and a passionate biology professor), I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience here. Dr. Poage, my COMPASS mentor as well as a biology professor, has provided me with sage advice over my semesters in Pembroke.

Why did you choose to attend UNCP?

It has small class sizes and is close to home. Plus, my sister Ginger loved her experience at UNCP!

What do you like best about UNCP?

The professors express sincere interest in helping students succeed.

Please comment on your research experiences.

I spent 10 weeks at The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) this past summer. This experience was priceless as I was able to work with MDs and PhDs from abroad and from America. They were polite and professional as they helped me apply the concepts I learned at UNCP. This hands-on pedagogy reinforced my education from the labs and classrooms. With all of the challenges opposing organ transplants, stem cell therapy and bioprinting organs appear to be the best alternative strategies available. I feel that I made a meaningful contribution to the lab at WFIRM and trust that the research I performed will promote the advancement of these novel ideas to improve the quality of life for people around the globe.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I will attend a physician assistant (PA) program after graduating from UNCP. I began studying paramedicine in January 2014, and I have been working as a paramedic with Hoke County EMS. The more patients I treat in the prehospital environment underscores the need for educating our neighbors on the importance of their health. My dream job would allow me the flexibility to see patients in a primary care setting while continuing my research on stem cell therapies and bionics. I view the role of a PA as a utility player in the arena of healthcare. I will be called upon to perform a variety of services from psychology to surgery. I want to prepare myself and my team to provide preeminent care to patients in our community, our country, and beyond.

David Pedersen and researchers at Wake Forest

From left to right: Nima Pourhabibi Zarandi, MD, David Pedersen, Dr. Maria Santisteban (Director of the UNCP COMPASS Program), and Hooman Sadri-Ardekani, MD, PhD, at the 2016 research presentation for Summer Scholars at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

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