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All Millikin University’s biology students take part in a research project during their junior and senior year. By stepping outside the classroom and undertaking their own research, students get the opportunity to apply their scientific knowledge to practical situations. At the conclusion of their respective research projects, students present their findings to professors and peers during a Senior Seminar. This year’s presentations, which could be literature or laboratory-based, earned many students a trip to conferences to present their findings, with several students even returning with awards.

On March 30- 31, seven biology students attended the Illinois State Academy of Science hosted at Knox College. The results of the students’ research were presented in either a poster session or an oral presentation. While these presentations were not judged, the experience gained by the students attending was invaluable in preparing them for future presentations at Millikin and in their career. Students who attended included Amanda Guinn, Cody Hubble, Brianna Hogan, Grace Walworth, Sarah Huber, Matt DeCosse, and Michael Vickers.

The biology honorary society, Beta Beta Beta, hosted its annual North Central District 1 Conference at Augustana College on April 14. Grace Walworth and Kelly Commons gave oral presentations covering their research projects. Grace’s presentation, focusing on the possible relationship between a certain enzyme activity and bacterial communication in E. coli, received the top award at the conference. Her project began in the summer of 2010 under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Hughes. After changing majors to biology, Grace was “interested in getting involved in research and eager to dive into the microbiology lab outside of a structured class.” The opportunity to apply classroom lessons in a practical setting brings the academic experience full circle and provides experience that will benefit students in their pursuit of a career.

A week after the Beta Beta Beta conference, another group of students traveled to Butler University for its annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Five students: Brittany Sherron, Ian Callahan, Stephanie Gates, Kirsten Daykin, and Grace Walworth presented. These presentations were not judged, but still provided valuable experience for the students. Kirsten Daykin presented her findings from testing the absorption of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) molecules in E. coli at the conference. After taking a microbiology course her junior year, Kirsten became interested in a similar project that a fellow student was working on. When that student graduated, Kirsten took the opportunity to continue the research and test a different method. This conference was a great experience for the students, as it allowed them to present their findings to the scientific community as well as a chance to present before their Senior Seminar presentations at Millikin.

The same weekend as the Beta Beta Beta conference, the Indiana Branch of the American Society for Microbiologists hosted a conference at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Ian Callahan, Stephanie Gates, and Grace Walworth traveled from one conference to another in order to participate in a judged poster competition. Of the fourteen undergraduate posters presented, two received awards. Millikin swept them both: Grace Walworth placed first and Stephanie Gates placed second. Stephanie’s research examined the same molecule as Kirsten Daykin, but looked into the effects of an enzyme disruption on the molecule’s metabolism. For their efforts, Grace and Stephanie’s respective research projects will be published in the organization’s magazine. Publication is a rare and exciting honor for an undergraduate science student to receive. Not only does it provide recognition for their outstanding work, but it shares their findings with a wider audience from the scientific community.

In late May, biology majors Seth Gabriel and Adam Jesionowsk attended the Ozark Prairie Chapter Regional meeting of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) in Des Moines, Iowa. Although Seth and Adam were the only undergraduates presenting at a poster session comprised of mostly graduate students and industry professionals, they made quite an impact. Adam won first prize for his research, which included a $500 travel stipend to attend the national SETAC meeting in November hosted in Long Beach, California.

Attending conferences gives Millikin’s biology students the unique opportunity to present their research outside of a classroom. While each conference is different and has its own vibe, they all provide a setting for students to network and learn what their peers at other institutions are doing. According to Grace Walworth, “the goal of attending conferences is to share your research as best as possible and to learn from others’ presentations.” While the goal is not necessarily to win, Millikin’s senior biology students haven’t complained at all about returning to campus with a handful of awards.

Kevin Stocks '13
Millikin Student Writer
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL