Notable Faculty & Student Achievements
Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote published the article “Alternative DNA structure formation in the mutagenic human c-MYC promoter” in the highly ranked journal Nucleic Acids Research. This research is significant because it implicates the involvement of a three-stranded DNA structure in genome instability associated with the human c-MYC oncogene region and cancer. Chemistry alumni Sarah Coe ’17 and Olivia Drummond ’17 were involved in this research project.
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote gave an invited seminar at the University of North Texas. Her talk included work from her sabbatical on the consequences of damage to non-B DNA structures including its role in causing human genetic diseases such as cancer.
Southwestern biochemistry alumna Katie Ferrick ’16 is the recipient of the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Ferrick conducted research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote during her four years at Southwestern. She is currently in graduate school at Stanford University. This year, there were 13,000 applications and NSF made 2,000 award offers
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote gave an invited seminar at Texas State University. Her talk was titled “DNA damage within alternatively structured DNA: Novel mechanisms of genetic instability in cancer.”
Twenty-two Southwestern students traveled to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to attend the 120th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science (TAS), March 4–5. Collectively, Southwestern students gave four oral presentations and presented 12 posters in numerous sections of the Academy including Conservation Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Physics, Systematics and Evolution, Freshwater Science, and Science Education. Much of the work presented at TAS took place in past summer SCOPE programs. Several students and alumni received awards:
- Victoria Gore, Class of 2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Environmental Science Section for her work, “Extreme Precipitation: Changes in Rain Frequency from 1895-2015 in Central Texas.” Gore worked on this project during SCOPE with her mentor Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards.
- Bella Ferranti, Class of 2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Physics Section for her talk, “Laser Frequency Combs and the Search for Exoplanets.” This is the second presentation that Ferranti has given at the Texas Academy of Sciences.
- Lauren Gillespie, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster Presentation Award in Mathematics and Computer Science for her work entitled “Evolving Tetris Players Using Raw Screen Inputs,” which she worked on with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Schrum.
- Sofia Campos ’16 took the Best Poster prize in the Systematics and Evolution Section and also won 2nd place overall for her presentation, “Cryptic yet curiously common: Population genetic structure and diversity of a cryptic Pomacea sp. and its better known congeneric P. canaliculata,” which summarized her work in Uruguay with Professor of Biology Romi Burks.
- Madison Granier, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster prize in the Conservation Biology section and also received a $1500 grant from the Academy to support her undergraduate research titled “Snail Slime in Real Time: qPCR Detection of Environmental DNA using Apple Snails.” This work involves a collaboration between Granier, Burks and alumni Matthew Barnes ’06, now an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University.
- Carissa Bishop, Class of 2017, won two presentation awards: Best Oral Presentation in Freshwater Science, for her talk entitled “Applying Band-Aids: Challenges associated with molecular detection of Angiostronglyus cantonensis infection within Uruguayan and Brazilian apple snails,” and a Poster Award in Science Education for a collaborative project titled “Innovating molecular art: Communicating the true cost of science through repurposed materials.” Campos ’16, Shannon Walsh and Hugo Cepeda, both Class of 2018, all made contributions to the molecular art piece based on research that they have done with Burks. All of the molecular work has been made possible through a grant awarded to the Natural Sciences by the Keck Foundation.
Other TAS presenters included Alex Taylor, Renee Walker, Morgan O’Neal, Jillian Bradley, Daniel Gonzalez, Eris Tock, Alex Rollins, and Jiawen Zhang, all Class of 2017, Ramesh Nadeem, Dakota Butler, Diana Beltran, Susan Beltran, and Madelyn Akers, all Class of 2018. Additional faculty mentors included Professor of Chemistry Kerry Bruns, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Gesinski, Professor of Biology Ben Pierce, and Part-Time Assistant Professor of Biology Airon Wills.