Donaghey Scholars to Present at Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington D.C.

Two UALR students were recently added to the list of researchers who will present their work at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington D.C. Feb. 20 through 22, 2014.

Dolapo Odeniyi and Saad Azam were awarded travel awards that cover airfare, hotel, meals, conference registration, and other conference-related expenses. Lafayette DeRamus’s representation at the conference was announced in November.

All three undergraduate students are members of the University Science Scholars Program, which is facilitating the students’ attendance at the ERN Conference.

Azam’s first place win at Arkansas INBRE Conference


Azam, a Donaghey Scholar with a double major in chemistry and biology, serves as president of the UALR chapter of American Chemical Society. He will present on “High-Throughput Electrochemical Characterization of Fuel Cell Catalysts.”

“This trip will not only increase my visibility in the academic community, but also give me the opportunity to share and advertise my hard work and dedication that I have invested in this research,” Azam said.

His research stems from a prestigious ten-week summer internship at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Lab and was funded, in part, by the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium based at UALR.

The results from his internship were presented at Caltech and recognized by electrochemists from around the world.

Azam performed similar work in the lab of Dr. Tito Viswanathan when he returned to UALR this fall, developing catalysts for fuel cells. It helped propel him to a first place win in the Chemistry Division of the Arkansas INBRE conference in Fayetteville in October.

“I have been blessed with the opportunities that have been given to me,” he said. “I would like to thank UALR and all my mentors for providing me a platform to do cutting-edge research.”

Odeniyi’s inspiration: my research and my professor

Dolapo Odeniyi, a Donaghey and McNair Scholar and double major in biology and chemistry, expects to graduate in May 2014.

“I was directed to Dr. Lirong Zeng [assistant professor of biology], my faculty advisor, through a summer program in 2012 called Advancing and Supporting Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative II,” said Odeniyi.

“I gained so much through working with Dr. Zeng, and enjoyed the research topic so much, that I decided to continue working with him,” she added.

According to Zeng, the research Odeniyi works on is part of a project funded by a United States Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA) grant awarded to Zeng’s lab in biology.

Odeniyi’s research is titled “Characterization of the tomato Rub1/Nedd8-conjugating enzymes SlUbc18/19 in plant immunity and development.”

She explained that these are the genes involved in rubylation, which regulates other cellular processes, such as immunity and growth, through the modifications of protein substrates.

“In human and animals Neddylation/rubylation has been shown to be essential to the viability of many organisms and deregulated Neddylation is responsible for some human diseases, such as cancers,” Zeng said.


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