SAU three-peats in regional engineering/physics competition
For the third straight year, Southern Arkansas University Engineering/Physics students have taken the top titles at the highly competitive annual Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Research Conference.
At this year’s conference, held November 6-7 in Fayetteville, there were 170 total oral and poster presentations from various institutions across Arkansas and other neighboring states. Only a handful claimed awards, and three of the winners were from SAU, according to Dr. Abdel Bachri, chair of the department of Engineering and Engineering/Physics.
SAU senior Engineering/Physics major Ricardo Romo, of Mineral Springs, earned first place in the Physics Poster category for his research titled “The Effect of Ionizing Radiation on Human Endothelial Cells and Gamma Tocotrienol Radioprotection.” .
Darryl Webb, senior Engineering/Physics and Mathematics double major from Buckner, claimed second place in Best Oral Presentation for his work tiled “Techniques to enhance Endothelial Cells attachment to microcarrier beads, achieving Microgravity treatment.”
Earning an honorable mention at this year’s conference was Kahlil Wade, a senior SAU Engineering/ Physics major from Sherwood. He completed an undergraduate research experience at the Department of Physics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he worked with Dr. Jack Chakhalian on superconductors. His presentation was tilted “Electrical Transport Behavior of Metals at Near Zero Temperatures.”
“For all of them it was first time presenting in a conference,” said Bachri. “As I sat in the back and watched them present and answer questions, it was clear to me that they were performing at the level of graduate students. I was really so proud. They prepared so hard for this, but in the end, it was their mastering to the content that earned them the awards.”
During the award announcements, the auditorium was packed, according to Bachri.
“There was a lot of unrest and anxiousness in the air. Every time an SAU name was called, all 15 of us screamed like crazies. It is very hard to describe the joy and excitement we all shared.”
Cullen Shaffer, a senior Biology student from Crossett, delivered an oral presentation on “Radiation and Microgravity Induced Genomic Instability.” Shaffer and Webb are currently funded to work with Bachri on an NIH Research Development Grant totaling $265,000. They are exploring the effect of space radiation in a near-zero gravity environment on chromosome mutations, which are associated with a range of pathophysiological conditions such as cancer and neurological and vascular disorders. Romo was funded by an AR Space Grant from NASA. All students completed summer research working side-by-side with Bachri at the Division of Radiation Health of UAMS, along with Dr. Rupak Pathak and other radiation biology research scientists at UAMS.
Previous INBRE award winners from SAU include Joshua Grant, Barbara Rutter, Kahli Remy, Martin Hawron and Jeremy Dunklin, all of whom are making excellent progress in their Ph.D. studies at various institutions.
SAU Engineering has had strong industry support and has a good reputation, according to Bachri, which translates into our ability to place each student in industry internships or lab-driven research experience.
While four students were presenting at this conference, 14 total SAU students took part in this traveling experience. The group spent almost two days visiting with to various research faculty members from physics to mechanical and biomedical engineering. The trip was funded partly by the SAU Foundation via the Amfuel Founders endowment, the University of Arkansas and AR INBRE.