Three Ouachita Baptist University students were among those honored at the fifth annual Central Arkansas Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium held July 20 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The symposium attracted a total of 114 undergraduate researchers from 15 colleges and universities across Arkansas as well as18 colleges and universities from 14 other states. Ouachita had the largest undergraduate representation with 22 students.
Tyler White, a senior biology major from Biscoe, Ark., won second place among 92 posters presented. Two Ouachita students, Camden Dwelle, a senior biology, chemistry and mathematics major from Arkadelphia, Ark., and Brett James, a senior biology major from Camden, Ark., were among 12 participants selected to make oral presentations based on their research abstract submissions.
“My project focused on a new method of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer called photodynamic therapy,” White explained. “This treatment method has the potential to be very target-specific and would leave the tissue surrounding the tumor relatively unharmed. This is due to a photodynamic agent, in my case a porphyrin, being injected into the body to be taken up by the cells. The beauty of this treatment method is that the agent will only become toxic when exposed to light. My main objective this summer was to test a variety of porphyrins to find which will have the best cell uptake and toxicity.
“I have had the wonderful opportunity to work under Dr. Tim Hayes this summer as a student of the Patterson Summer Research Program here at Ouachita,” White added. “Research allowed me to bring to life to what I read in textbooks. I finally opened my eyes to the broad picture of science that I had been missing for so long. Not only did I learn the importance of research, I learned the patience that it takes to conduct research.”
“Tyler has been a pleasure to work with. He’s self-motivated, he works hard and he’s done a good job, not just on the experiments that he’s doing, but also on understanding the larger context for those experiments,” said Dr. Hayes, associate professor of chemistry and holder of the E.A. Provine Chair of Chemistry. “While we worked together on preparing his poster for printing, he took it upon himself to make sure that he could explain it in layman’s terms as well as explain the technical details for those who were interested. I’m very proud of Tyler winning this award because it recognizes his taking ownership of this project since day one.”
Dwelle worked on his project with his faculty mentor Dr. Lori Hensley, the J.D. Patterson Professor of Biology. His presentation was titled “The Effect of Cannabinoid Treatment on CD99 Expression in Ewing’s Sarcoma.”
“Ewing’s sarcoma (ES) is a common pediatric bone cancer with a low survival rate of 30 percent,” Dwelle said. “It has proven difficult to treat due to its high rate of metastasis, so new treatment options are necessary. Our lab looks into the effect of non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as ajulemic acid on the ES tumors.”
Affirming the opportunity “to speak in front of a large crowd in a professional study,” Dwelle said, “It was also great to take the time to put all of my work together from the whole summer into a compressed presentation that clearly explained what I did and what my results were. I also appreciated being able to network with other students and professors and seeing all the various fields that people are researching at the moment.”
James presented his research on “CYP2C9 and the Mutations that Affect Oxidation Efficiency.” He worked with faculty mentor Dr. Marty Perry, the Nell I. Mondy Professor of Chemistry.
“The basis of this research focuses on the study of CYP2C9, an enzyme found in the liver. This enzyme metabolizes NASIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen,” James explained. Researching how mutations of the protein affected interaction with various drugs, he added, “The study I engaged in is at the forefront of a line of potential research to learn how these mutations could affect oxidation efficiency.
“I was honored to share my findings with various undergraduates and professors across the state at UAMS,” James said. “I believe research is an important part of healthcare as it provides solutions for the improvements that can be made in the field.”
According to Dr. Perry, “Our students’ strong communication skills and passion for research are a testament to their own individual talents as well as the collective efforts of all Ouachita faculty who mentor and instruct them.
“It is a privilege to work with these outstanding students,” he emphasized. “They all represented Ouachita well.”
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications