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Inbre Grant and Awards Lead to Important Addition to Chemistry Lab

Four Lyon students and two faculty members have received awards from the IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) for their research efforts and work in various aspects of Lyon’s science programs.

The INBRE Undergraduate Student Mentoring Program gives fellowships to Arkansas juniors and seniors majoring in science, math, and computer science so they may participate in summer research programs at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, or the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. These fellowships also include stipends and budgets for research supplies as well as travel expenses to present the students’ summer research at national conferences.

The students who received these fellowships were Jason Lochmann, ’16, Jean de Dieu Mugiraneza, ’16, Megan Parks, ’17, and Jami Schmidt, ’17.

Dr. Irosha Nawarathne, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, received a Competitive Instrumentation Award for $49,500, which she used to purchase a Spinsolve Education Benchtop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectrometer. NMR allows researchers to elucidate the structure of molecules, and this instrument greatly benefits work done in biomedical and material science. With this tool, students can study complex three-dimensional protein structures.

Dr. Nawarathne plans to use the Spinsolve in her students’ laboratory experiences related to Organic Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis, as well as for her personal research. “Spinsolve is affordable, versatile, high-performance, and easy to use, making it ideal for informing undergraduate students in NMR and in accomplishing my research objectives in antibiotic drug discovery,” Dr. Nawarathne said. “The effective use of the instrument in our chemistry program and undergraduate research at Lyon will serve as a model for other undergraduate institutions across the country, especially in Arkansas and neighboring states,” she said.

Dr. Cassia Oliveira, Assistant Professor of Biology, received a Summer Mentored Faculty Fellowship Award for $29,968, which she will use to collaborate with Dr. Alan Tackett (UAMS) and Dr. David Thomas (Lyon) on a research project entitled “Molecular Analysis of Microbial Diversity in Ozark Caves.” They will work to identify new species of microbes in caves in the Ozark region of Arkansas and analyze their importance to human health, as well as establish their roles in their ecosystem.

Dr. Oliveira said that funds from INBRE and the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium (ASGC) will also support summer research opportunities for two biology students, Cathryn Bowers and Lauren Gunderman. “Research is an important component of undergraduate education and is especially relevant to science majors interested in pursuing advanced degrees in professional programs or graduate school,” Dr. Oliveira said. “The science faculty members at Lyon are committed to provide science majors with research experiences that can give them a competitive edge and help them delineate their career goals,” she said.

With this year’s advances in opportunities and technology for the science programs at Lyon, those career and research goals are much closer on the horizon. 

Posted by Eric Bork at 3:14 PM