Catawba science students present research, bring home honors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

Catawba News Service

SALISBURY — During the 2022-2023 academic year, Catawba College students and faculty mentors in the natural sciences attended several scientific conferences to present research and professional development opportunities. Twenty-two students presented a total of 31 oral and poster presentations, highlighted in four off-campus conferences.

Seventeen students attended and presented at the 2023 Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) Conference in Winston-Salem, from March 23-26. Students in attendance were Jacob Hiatt, Makenzie Bonner, Summer Dobson, Emily Brasseur, Jalen Garner, Will Roque, Hunter Sjobom, Everette Rhymer, Ana Price, Yahaira Galan-Cruzes, Mackenzie Martin, Alicia Deras-Cruz, Xander Gehron, Kate Halstead, Salem Fleming, Tobias Mielke, and Katelyn Crabb. Natural Sciences faculty advisors attending were: Drs. Jay Bolin, Sue Calcagni, Francisco Camacho, Luke Dollar, Carmony Hartwig, Andrew Jacobson, Joe Poston, Amanda Rushing and Erin Witalison. Catawba College was the featured host institutionr.

“As the host institution, our student researchers did an excellent job representing Catawba’s biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and environment and sustainability departments,” Witalison said.

Jacob Hiatt, a senior double major in biology and chemistry won superior (first place) honors for the Frank G. Brooks Award for oral presentations in microbiology for Districts I and II of the Biological Honors Society (Tri-Beta) with his talk, entitled “Soil Solutions: Identifying Novel Sources of Antibiotics from Environmental Bacteria.” His research advisor is Dr. Amanda Rushing, assistant professor of biology and biochemistry.

“I have performed undergraduate research at Catawba College for three years now, and it has been such an incredible experience,” said Hiatt. “Initially, I had no clue how to get involved or what this work even looks like. However, simple conversations with the biology professors put me on the right path.”

As first-place winner, Hiatt has been invited to present at the National Tri-Beta 2024 Conference.

Students presenting at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (SNCURCS) at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in the fall semester were Janiya Downs, Ana Price, Ben Bielby, Everette Rhymer, Kenny Dollenger, Cameron Shaffner, Jalen Garner, Emma Halstead, Salem Fleming, Will Roque, Hunter Sjobom, Jacob Hiatt, Kayla Henrickson, Kasey McLamb, Emily Brasseur, Makenzie Bonner, and Mackenzie Martin.  They were supported by faculty members Drs. Jay Bolin, Suzanne Bowser, Carmony Hartwig, Joe Poston, Amanda Rushing and Erin Witalison.

Student Jalen Garner and faculty member Dr. ChaMarra Saner presented at the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Conference in Orlando, Florida in the fall. Garner presented a poster of his research “Trace metal exposure reduces the viability of in vitro cell models,” earning second place for the Regeneron Poster Presentation Award in the Biochemistry Division 2022.  Dr. Saner presented a talk entitled “Who Want the Smoke?!: Navigating Conflict at Work” as well as served as an invited panelist on the “Women in STEM: Navigating Stages and Phases” session.

Xander Gehron presented his research titled “Mycoremediation of Mercury: Bioremediation Potential of Fungi” at the North Carolina Academy of Sciences (NCAS) Conference in  April, accompanied by Dr. Hartwig. Gehron was one of six students in the state  to be awarded Yarbrough Grant Funding through NCAS last August for his proposed research. His research was advised by Drs. Poston, Calcagni and Hartwig.

Student researchers were supported through a variety of grant sources including the Catawba College IMPACT Grant, the Biological Honors Society Research Grant, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) Research Grant and North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS) Yarbrough Grant.

“It is not only a joy, but an honor, to work alongside our students and be a witness to their growth as individuals and as future colleagues,” said Dr. Carmony about the hard work of the students and faculty advisors. “I am so appreciative to the Catawba IMPACT fund, as well as outside agencies such as TriBeta, NCAS and NCICU, that help our students to not only be able to conduct their research but present their findings to the broader scientific community.”