Science students earn awards at researchers conference

Three University of Arkansas at Little Rock students recently returned from presenting their research at the annual Emerging Researchers Conference in Washington, D.C.; two of them earned awards in their respective categories.


UALR students Dolapo Odeniyi, Saad Azam, and Lafayette DeRamus III were among approximately 500 presenters and 1,000 participants at the conference held Feb. 20-22.

“The students knew their material, were obviously enthusiastic about their work, and explained it well,” said Dr. Jim Winter, director of Arkansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ALSAMP) and the University Science Scholars Program (USSP) at UALR.

“I’m proud of all of them.”

Odeniyi, a double-major in biology and chemistry and a member in ALSAMP and USSP, won first place in the plant research subcategory. She is also a member of the Donaghey Scholars Program.

She gave a presentation titled “Characterization of Tomato Rub1/Nedd8-conjugating Enzymes SlUbc18/19.” Dolapo conducted her research in the UALR laboratory of Dr. Lirong Zeng, assistant professor of biology.

Odeniyi is planning a career in medical research and has been accepted into the M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Connecticut, as well as several other medical schools. Her research was partially funded by the McNair Scholars Program.

Azam, a double-major in biology and chemistry and a member of USSP, won third place in the chemistry subcategory.

His poster presentation was “High-Throughput Electrochemical Characterization of Fuel Cell Catalysts.”

Azam conducted his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology under the mentorship of Dr. Charles C. Hays and was also supported by the National Space and Aeronautics Association.

He is also a member of the Donaghey Scholars Program, is working on another project with Dr. Tito Viswanathan of the UALR chemistry department. He is planning a career in medical research and will graduate in 2015.

DeRamus is double majoring in geology and physics and is a member of both ALSAMP and USSP.

He presented in the nanoscience subcategory and his talk was titled, “Optimization of CIGS Solar Cells through AFORS-HET Simulation Program.” His mentor was Dr. Jingbiao Cui, formerly of the UALR physics department.

DeRamus is a junior and plans to attend graduate school to study material physics. He is also a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps.

Winter said most of the conference participants worked at federal labs or were on federally-funded projects, and they brought their “A-game” to impress recruiters and judges.

The student presenters’ expenses were covered by the conference sponsors, the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Thanks to funds raised by UALR faculty, three other students, Osvaldo Cossio, Sinthia Jahan, and Jeffrey Jones, were also able to attend the conference.

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