U of A Students Take Top Honors at INBRE Conference
On Saturday, Oct. 22, five University of Arkansas students received awards from the 2016 INBRE (Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) Conference, held this year in Fayetteville. Award winners were:
- Gina Hauptman, 1st place oral presentation award for biological sciences
- Taylor Winn, honorable mention oral presentation award for biological sciences
- Karli Lipinski, honorable mention poster award for chemistry/biochemistry
- Christopher Oldfield, 1st place poster award for physics
- Chidubem Egbosimba, honorable mention poster award for physics
Both Oldfield, a senior, and Chidubem Egbosimba, a sophomore, are members of the biomedical engineering department at the U of A. Both students also worked with Radwan A. Al Faouri, research associate at the U of A Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering, on the research projects they presented at the conference.
Oldfield began doing research work with Al Faouri at the beginning of the semester, using a technique called atomic force microscopy to study ways to better understand how graphene adheres to cells. As graphene is toxic to cells, Oldfield explained, knowing actual data regarding its force of adhesion can help researchers design graphene-based medical applications like biosensors and drug delivery agents.
Egbosimba's research with Al Faouri, which he started at the end of the spring 2016 semester, focuses on a pore-forming protein called lysenin, which has a dipole moment between its head and its tail. This dipole moment, Egbosimba noted, is significant because it enables the protein respond to various electrical stimuli, and, in turn, enables researchers to control the opening and closing of the pore using patch clamping techniques. By investigating the ways in which the pore can be opened and closed, researchers pave the way for the creation of drug delivery systems.
For both Oldfield and Egbosimba, the INBRE conference was a memorable experience, particularly because it afforded them the opportunity to learn more about the work being done by others in their field. Recalled Egbosimba, "It was really fun...to walk around and examine the research that graduate students from other schools engaged in." One such presentation that really caught his eye was a project measuring the efficiency of lithium ion batteries. What's more, he added, winning an award as an undergraduate in a conference filled with graduate students was a thrilling experience. When he heard his name announced as the winner, Egbosimba explained that he was "astonished." "I probably sat there for five seconds," he continued, "just shocked."
Biomedical engineering student Chidubem Egbosimba. Photo by Denise Greathouse.
For Oldfield, the conference was also a great step towards a career as a scientist. "Having the experience of going and seeing this new information," he explained, "helps us make connections and helps us improve products we decide to invent or sell."
Moving forward, Oldfield and Egbosimba hope to publish the research they presented at INBRE in paper form with Al Faouri. They also plan to continue expanding their research. "One thing I personally want to do is compare to actual toxicology results of graphene," Oldfield said. "We assume most of the toxicity comes from the mechanical side, but a portion of it might be just chemical (as in it reacts and doesn't physically lock things) and comparing what we've done to toxicology reports will help figure out what percentage is physically harmful."
"I plan on doing research with Dr. Al Faouri for the next two years until I graduate," said Egbosimba. "At this point in the research it's really exciting because right now we're moving away from the planar bilayer experiments….to more natural bilayer membranes within liposomes. I think that within the next two years we can make a great drug delivery system or discover something useful as far as medical applications go."
For other students thinking of pursuing research work with a university professor, Oldfield and Egbosimba have the same advice: do it! "Go out and talk to a professor," said Egbosimaba. "I have learned that professors love to meet with students who are interested in their research." Of Al Faouri, he noted that "he's really hands on [and] he really cares about students that work under him."
Oldfield also suggested biomedical students reach out to him personally if they're looking for research positions. As the Career Development Officer for the Biomedical Engineering Society at the University of Arkansas, he explained that he's often learning of professors looking for research help; interested students are invited to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Oldfield and Egbosimba are emblematic of many of our undergraduate students who are eager to explore research opportunities related to the biomedical engineering discipline and present their findings to the broader community. We are indeed proud of engaging with many of our undergraduates in our research programs, so that they get valuable training as they move forward in their careers," said Raj Rao, professor and department head of biomedical engineering.
INBRE is funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), under the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Elizabeth DeMeo, media specialist
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