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Catawba College Students Earn Honors for Undergraduate Research

April 15, 2021

Category: Academics, Biology, Students

co-bioresearch.jpgUndergraduate research projects by Catawba College students were recognized with awards at the recent Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting.

Catawba College Biology, Chemistry, Environment and Sustainability, and Psychology students engaged with their faculty in undergraduate research projects during the spring semester, despite the challenges of doing research under pandemic conditions. Students attended the North Carolina Academy of Sciences (NCAS) and the Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) virtual meetings in March, and while their experiences were different from a face-to-face meeting, faculty advisors said that the students did incredible work and represented their home institution well.

Catawba’s BBB (Biology Honor Society) Tau Eta chapter, led by student president Giovanni Quiroz-Delfi and faculty co-leaders Dr. Carmony Hartwig and Dr. Erin Howard, was honored with several awards at the March 2021 ASB meeting. Catawba’s Tau Eta Chapter won the award for Most Student Presenters from BBB District 1 (a five-state area), highlighting Catawba College’s commitment to undergraduate research and close mentorship. Dr. Carmony Hartwig was awarded the BBB District 1 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, based on her mentorship of numerous research students and many years of service to BBB judging student presentations.Malachi Grey 2.jpg

Of the large group of students presenting from Catawba College, two were recognized with Research Presentation awards. Austin Snide, a senior Biology major, and his research mentor Dr. Carmony Hartwig, were awarded First Place in the John C. Johnson Award for Excellence in Poster Presentations. Abigail Walters, an honor senior Biology and Psychology major, and her faculty mentor Dr. Erin Howard were awarded Second Place in the Frank G. Brooks Award for Excellence in Paper Presentation. 

Austin Snide summarized the impact of his research experience as follows: “Dr. Hartwig helped me open the door to scientific research and guided me in a way that prepared me for science after Catawba.” He will attend Wake Forest University this fall to pursue a Master of Science in Biology degree.

Similarly, Abigail Walters said that she valued the close mentorship opportunity afforded by undergraduate research. “My faculty advisor is Dr. Erin Howard, who helped me through this process, and my gratitude is more than words can express,” she said. “She’s taught me many valuable lab skills, as well as guided me through applying for research grants, designing the methods, and presenting, and I can’t thank her enough!”

Though disappointed with the reality of an entirely virtual meeting and the lack of face-to-face networking and fun social aspects, Catawba students still found value in the virtual meeting experience. Abigail Walters said that “though the meeting had to be online, I think that ASB and BBB did a really good job of organizing the presentations and giving everyone a positive experience. The questions asked of the presenters were both relevant and challenging.”Madison Kluge and Arilyn Lynch ENV majors.jpg

Students and faculty alike are excited about new avenues of undergraduate research at Catawba College in the near future due to the comprehensive renovation of the Shuford Science Building that will be completed by Fall 2021. A dedicated undergraduate research lab will open in addition to new cell culturing facilities. Biology Department Chair Dr. Jay Bolin said, “Thanks to our generous donors, our science teaching and undergraduate research laboratories will facilitate exciting new findings by our faculty and students, from topics as diverse as the genetics of lost crop plants to new antibiotic candidates.”

Dr. Amanda Rushing, Assistant Professor of Biology, citing the importance of this process for college students, said, “Undergraduate research is one the most valuable experiences for our students because it gives them the opportunity to work as scientists and feel the excitement of scientific inquiry, in addition to differentiating their resumes for graduate or medical programs.”

ASB Projects, March 24-26, 2021

  • “Daphnia pulex Reproduction in Response to BPA and BPA Derivatives” Authors: Abigail Walters and Erin HowardSecond Place Honors, BBB District I Frank G. Brooks Award for Excellence in Paper Presentations 2021. 
  • “Eggshell Organizing Factor 1 protein in Psorophora ferox Mosquitoes,”Authors: Austin Snide and Carmony Hartwig. First Place Honors, BBB District I John C. Johnson Award for Excellence in Poster Presentations 2021. Candace Swepson 2.jpg
  • “Examining the Genotoxic Effects of BPA and its Derivatives in Daphniapulex,” Authors: Kasey McLamb, and Erin Howard 
  • “Investigating the Effects of JUUL Pod Extracts on Human Oral Microbiota-Associated Species,” Authors: Brooke Freeman, Sydney Goertzen and Carmony Hartwig 
  • "Investigating the Prevalence of Dirofiliaria immitis in Mosquito Vectors from Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina,” Authors: Candace Swepson and Carmony Hartwig 
  • “Iva (Asteraceae) Genome Size Estimates with an Emphasis on Iva annua a Forgotten Native American Food Plant,” Authors: E. Malachi Gray, Zachary Gray, and Jay Bolin 
  • “Journey to the Gut: Exploring the Viability of Probiotic Microbial Migrants following Gastric Exposure,” Authors: Justin Leonard, Erin Howard and Amanda Rushing 
  • “Soil Sleuthing: Student-sourcing the Antibiotics Discovery Pipeline” Authors: Jasmine Wiitala, Oryan Malul and Amanda Rushing 
  • “The Changing Composition of a Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) Dominated Piedmont Swamp Forest in North Carolina due to the Arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis),” Authors: Madison Kluge, Arilyn Lynch, Matthew Rodriguez and Jay Bolin Austin Snide.jpg
  • “Novel Antibiotic Compounds from Soil-dwelling Bacteria,” Authors: Jacob Hiatt and Amanda Rushing 

NCAS Projects, March 12-13, 2021 

  • “Investigating the Prevalence of Dirofiliaria immitis in Mosquito Vectors from Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina,” Authors: Candace Swepson, Marissa Bruce, and Carmony Hartwig 
  • “Shuns, Germs, and Meals: How Social Stigma Influences Disease Transmission in Human Populations,” Authors: Michaela Patterson, Amanda Rushing, Buster Smith and Carmony Hartwig


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