UA Little Rock Student Awarded Third Place at MSU Summer Research Symposium

Ibraheem Abbood, right, with interview Ahmed Elkhattabi, left.

Ibraheem Abbood, a senior at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was awarded third place in the Biological Sciences and Engineering category during the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium at Mississippi State University.

“I found out about the symposium while at my time in Mississippi State,” said Abbood, a double major in biology and chemistry. “I asked my mentor (Dr. Nick Fitzkee) if I could participate and he granted me access. I felt that it would give me the opportunity to talk with other mentors and mentees about scientific research.”

His summer research project was titled, “Using Mutagenesis to Understand How a Protein Binds to a Polystyrene Surface.” It involves the study of biofilm, a colony of microorganisms that sticks to certain surfaces and can be found on objects like catheters, artificial hearts, and teeth.

“The primary reason we were looking at biofilms is because they are the leading cause of hospital-related infection,” Abbood said. “The bacteria in biofilms typically resist antibiotic treatments and are therefore a serious global health concern. When they attach, they start messing with the mechanism of these devices making them infective. We looked at different amino acids (proteins) to see which one is responsible for biofilm formation in hopes to understand the mechanism of binding. If we understand the mechanism and which amino acid is responsible for biofilm formation, we can manufacture an inhibitor to stop biofilm formation.”

Abbood is also grateful for his mentor, Dr. Nick Fitzkee, a professor of chemistry at Mississippi State University, who supervised and supported him throughout the whole process.

“I know chemistry might sound boring, but it’s really interesting once you dig deep into it,” Abbood said. “We need more people in this field, and we need more encouragement and events for the students to keep their passion alive.”

Once he earns his undergraduate degrees, Abbood hopes to get accepted in a leading graduate school and pursue his dreams in the field of chemistry.

This story was written by Ahmed Elkhattabi. In the upper right photo, Ibraheem Abbood, right, stands with interviewer Ahmed Elkhattabi, left.

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