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Undergrads Research Infants, Insects and an Island


Research Triangle Park, N.C. -- The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded $60,500 in competitive research grants to a dozen undergraduate projects on eight campuses.

The Undergraduate Research Fellowships match faculty mentors with science and engineering majors. Students across the state gain real-world research experience through these collaborative projects. For some awardees, these projects are first glimpses at biotechnology careers.
“These grants encourage talented students around the state to pursue biotechnology research projects that can inspire important career decisions,” said John Balchunas, director of workforce development at the Biotechnology Center.

“It’s vital that North Carolina, with the help of these kinds of Biotechnology Center programs, provide academically enriching experiences that connect undergraduates with futures in academia or industry.”

Awardees’ projects include a study of Echinacea to prevent premature birth, an analysis of potential insecticides, and an investigation of a possible contributor to dementia.

This year’s fellowship program includes a unique partnership with Cotton Incorporated to support an agricultural research project. That award, to a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, includes $5,000 from Cotton Incorporated and $500 from the Biotech Center. All other awards are $5,000.

During the year of grant-funded research, each undergraduate student fellow devotes more than 400 hours to the project. All are required to present their work in seminars at their institutions and in papers or posters at scientific conferences. The students also attend at least one regional or state meeting on the business of biotechnology.

Award recipients include:

  • Appalachian State University
    John Schwabe, mentored by Chishimba Nathan Mowa. Project title: Profiling Cervical Collagen Expression for Predicting Birth. Bao-Tran Nguyen, mentored by Chishimba Nathan Mowa. Project title: Preventing Premature Births the Natural Way: A Feasibility Study Using Echinacea. Colin Curtis, mentored by Jennifer Burris. Project title: Characterization of Collagen in Solution and in Tissue Using Raman Spectroscopy
  • Davidson College
    Thomas Silvers, mentored by Shyam Unniraman. Project title: Duke-Davidson Immunology Partnership
  • North Carolina State University
    Mary Patricia Bulfin, mentored by Christopher Ashwell. Project title: Identification of the Gene Responsible for the Chicken L Alloantigen by Whole Genome Association Mapping and Assessment of Potential Implications on Poultry Immunological Response. Victoria Crisci, mentored by Paul Hamilton. Project title: Identification of Cell-type Specific Peptide Ligands for Human Pancreatic B-cells
  • UNC Asheville
    Douglas Brawley, mentored by Thomas Meigs. Project title: Structural Characterization of G{alpha}12 Interaction with the Non-receptor Activator Ric-8
  • UNC Charlotte
    Jasmine King, mentored by Joanna Kreuger. Project title: Protein Stability Studies for Bio-therapeutic Applications
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    Verrico Boyd, mentored by Parke Rublee. Project title: Real-time PCR Characterization of Microbial Communities on Mount Desert Island
  • Robert Amend, mentored by Vincent Henrich. Project title: Refinement of a Cell-based Assay for Screening Novel Insecticides
  • University of North Carolina at Pembroke
    Rebecca Howell, mentored by Deborah Lundin. Project title: Assessing Lysosomal Modulators in Models of Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Western Carolina University
    Catherine Denning, mentored by Michael Van Dyke. Project title: Structural Studies of the Stress-response Translation Regulator Stm1p

For more information about the Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award, visit http://www.ncbiotech.org/undergrad_biotech

The Biotechnology Center is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.

The Biotech Center has headquarters in Research Triangle Park with offices in Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem.

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Contact: Robin Deacle, vice president of corporate communications, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, at robin_deacle@ncbiotech.org or 919-541-9366. Visit the Biotechnology Center's website at www.ncbiotech.org.