STARKVILLE, Miss.--Undergraduate research provides Mississippi State biological sciences majors both the opportunity to gain practical work experience needed after graduation and a better appreciation for how scientific inquiry impacts biological study.
The biological sciences department's annual Biology Undergraduate Research Program is one university forum designed to encourage academic investigation. During its recent sixth symposium, the program featured presentations by 16 students.
First-, second- and third-place winners each received Downer Undergraduate Research Awards that honor professor emeritus Donald N. Downer of Starkville, the longtime department head. Honorees include:
-- Senior Connor J. Denison, of Collierville, Tenn., who presented "Screening the 'Undead:' Identifying Compensatory Mutations in pcp1 Alleles" as part of his research in assistant professor Donna Gordon's biology laboratory class. He is the son of Mitchell and Terri Denison.
-- Kelly P. Callahan, of Cordova, Tenn., a May summa cum laude graduate, whose presentation, "Expression of DNA Damage Proteins in Macrophages in Response to Pneumococcal Infection," resulted from work in assistant professor Justin Thornton's biology lab. She is the daughter of Michael Callahan and Carolyn Thomas.
-- Rushil Randive, of Greenwood, also a May summa cum laude graduate, whose presentation, "Rap1a Mediates Extracellular Matrix Remodeling Through AGE/RAGE Signaling in Diabetes Mellitus," was an extension of his work in assistant professor James Stewart Jr.'s biology lab. He is the son of Anurag and Preetika Randive.
Each received an engraved plaque and cash award. For being first, Denison also was presented with an engraved MSU cowbell.
"Faculty members present overviews of their research and discuss research topics with undergraduates interested in joining their lab research team. Students gain experience presenting their own research," said department head Nancy Reichert. "This program is now our greatest effort in promoting undergraduate research within biological sciences at MSU."
Reichert explained why the awards honor Downer.
"Dr. Downer was well recognized for his heartfelt devotion to undergraduate students," she said. "He was a highly revered undergraduate adviser and received the first Irvin Atlee Jefcoat Excellence in Advising Award for Faculty and the National Academic Advising Association Faculty Advising Award.
"Since BURP was initiated to assist undergraduate students, it was fitting for the award to carry Dr. Downer's name."
In addition to the student awards, Donna Gordon was honored with the department's First-Place Mentor Award, while Stewart, who coordinated BURP, received the Excellence Award for his efforts on behalf of the symposium.
For more about MSU, visit www.msstate.edu.