Wayland students receive accolades at Texas Academy of Science meeting

PLAINVIEW, TX — Continuing what is rapidly becoming a Wayland Baptist University tradition, students from the Kenneth L. Mattox School of Mathematics and Sciences have returned from the annual Texas Academy of Science meeting with multiple awards.

Elizabeth Wirth won first place in the poster competition in the Chemistry and Biochemistry section, and Luke Brockway won second place in the poster competition in the Cell and Molecular Biology section. According to Dr. Robert Moore, Professor of Chemistry, these are two of the largest sections at the TAS meeting.

“The Kenneth L. Mattox School of Mathematics and Sciences is extremely proud of all of our students and grateful to the faculty who continue to encourage and facilitate the undergraduate research culture we have here,” Dr. Moore said. “I don’t know if I can emphasize how worthy of celebration these awards are. Other schools represented in the sections in which our students presented included many research-heavy Division 1 universities such as Texas Tech and Baylor. What we do with undergraduates is atypical, and our students recognized that strongly as they spoke with other presenters.”

Dr. Moore said nine students and five faculty from Wayland’s Kenneth L. Mattox School of Mathematics and Sciences travelled to the TAS meeting March 1-2 to present student research performed this past year.

“This annual meeting is designed to showcase undergraduate and graduate STEM research happening across the state,” the Chemistry professor said.

Four students presented in three sections. In addition to Wirth and Brockway, Dylan Jerden presented in the Terrestrial Ecology and Management section and Chelsea Kelley presented in the Chemistry and Biochemistry section. Undergraduate presentations are judged and the best talks and posters in each section are recognized with an award.

Wirth and Kelley work under the guidance of Dr. Moore. Wirth presented a poster entitled “The Impact of Base Redundancy on DNA binding of E. coli RecA”. Kelley presented her research, “Adventures in developing a radiationless strand exchange assay: A TWEEN drama”. Mentored by Dr. Matthew Dyson, Associate Professor of Biology and Chemistry, Brockway presented his work, “Induction of M. tuberculosis recA in a rhamnose inducible system.”

“These three students tackled vastly different aspects of a large project aimed at understanding the role of the Mycobacterial form of the protein RecA in tuberculosis drug resistance,” Dr. Moore said.

Kelley has been accepted to the chemistry graduate program at Baylor University and expects to begin this summer. Wirth and Brockway graduate this spring and have their sights set on attending medical school. All three students were supported by the Welch Departmental Research Grant. Wayland uses this grant to fund year-long chemistry research experiences in which students design a research project in the spring, carry it out working full time for eight weeks in the summer, and then travel to meetings like TAS to present their findings the following academic year.

Moore said the newly accepted cohort of Welch research students — Haley Fossett, Dylan Dodd, and Jaitlynn Sherman — also attended this TAS meeting in preparation for presenting next year.

Dylan Jerden, Wayland’s first student researcher supported by the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, also presented his research at TAS. Guided by Dr. Matthew Allen, Professor of Biological Sciences, Jerden presented a poster entitled “Tree spatial structure in a mixed conifer forest in the Sacramento Mountains of south-central New Mexico.”

“This National Science Foundation award supports students going into STEM education based on the philosophy that the best math and science educators will be the ones who have experience as mathematicians and scientists,” Dr. Moore explained. “The research component of the program is modeled after the Welch program but is available to all STEM education students and provides tuition support and professional developmental support several years into the recipient’s career as an educator.”

Jerden and Dr. Allen spent time in New Mexico last summer collecting tree data and samples that will continue to be used for upcoming research and can be used to reconstruct the climate and logging history of the area. Natalie Hinojosa, a new Noyce Grant recipient who will be doing her research in mathematics, also attended TAS.

 Copies of the four research posters are online at https://www.wbu.edu/academics/schools/school-of-math-and-science/undergraduate-research/index.htm. Click on “Chemistry Research” or “Biology Research” on the right side of the page to view the posters.