March 15, 2005
Contact: Edmond McDavis III
Balachandran awarded prize for presentation; students
discuss research projects
COLUMBUS, Miss.—Mississippi University for Women senior
Amrita Balachandran was awarded the prize for best
undergraduate presentation within the Cell, Molecular
and Developmental Biology division of the Mississippi
Academy of Sciences annual meeting in Oxford.
MUW sent 20 students and five faculty members to the MAS
annual meeting in February.
Balachandran was one of seven students who gave
presentations. Her discussion was titled
“Characterization of the structural and functional
identity of the GroEL1 chaperone.”
Stefanie Cummings, Jillian Danner, Tonya Dement, Amy
Newton, Joy Wall and Tamara Williams also made
Dr. Dionne Fortenberry, assistant professor of
chemistry, served as vice-chair for the Chemistry and
Chemical Engineering Division of the MAS annual meeting.
Dr. Jiben Roy, assistant professor of chemistry, gave a
talk on “chemical profiling and antimicrobial analysis
of a traditional herbal medicine containing garlic and
black cumin” as part of the Chemistry and Chemical
Engineering division and presented a poster on “the
effect of natural sunlight on ciprofloxacin eye drops.”
The science and mathematics students also made a name
for themselves in laboratories across the nation by
completing research projects this past summer at
Balachandran completed a research project at the Howard
Hughes Medical Institute at University of Pittsburg on
microbacteria and presented her project, titled “A Study
of the amino acid residues that distinguish the GroEL1
and GroEL2 chaperones in Mycobacterium smegmatis.”
A graduating senior from India, Balachandran was one of
15 undergraduate college students selected to
participate in the 10-week summer program.
The microbiology major with a minor in chemistry said,
“It was the first time I actually got to be in a real
research lab. Now I’m confident because of the basic
things I learned there. It helped me decide what I want
to do after MUW.”
She plans to complete doctoral studies in immunology and
infectious diseases and later conduct research or teach
in a research institute.
Cummings, a graduating senior from Columbus, also
started a research project at Mississippi State
University last summer on crystallizing layered
She completed a summer research project at Louisiana
State University during the summer of 2003.A chemistry
and math major, Cummings said, “It is still ongoing at
MSU by other students. It’s made a huge difference. My
first experience was an eye opener. Lab for class is a
huge difference than a research lab. When you are doing
research in a lab it is a more involved learning
Cummings has been pre-accepted into the University of
Mississippi’s medicinal chemistry department, where she
will start this summer with classes and research.
“I definitely recommend others to search out summer
internships whenever possible…you can’t beat the
experience and you get paid to do it too.”
She would like to work at a research institute after
graduate school and maybe one day teach at a small
liberal arts college.
Kristie Blair, a sophomore biology major from Hamilton,
worked on a project with Dr. Jimena Aracena, associate
professor of biological sciences, and other students
during last summer and the fall semester with regards to
the feeding behaviors of fruit flies.
Blair, along with Aracena and other students, traveled
to San Diego to the national meeting of the Society of
Integrative Comparative Biology to present a poster
detailing their research in January.
“Most of the presenters were graduate students and post
doctorates so for us to be undergraduates I think most
everyone enjoyed it,” she said.
Blair would like to do future projects on marine biology
and field research.
She would like to have a career in wildlife
conservation, hopefully in Mississippi. .