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Student Research News

Barton, Alumna Published in Molecular Genetics Journal
Chris Barton HeadshotDr. Chris Barton, assistant professor of biology, was recently published in Molecular Genetics and Metabolism Reports. His article, “The cardiac glycoside convallatoxin inhibits the growth of colorectal cancer cells in a p53-independent manner,” describes research completed by Sarah Anderson, a recent biology graduate who is now working as a clinical researcher in Washington, D.C. Sarah’s research was completed as a part of Belmont’s Summer Scholars Research Program during the summer of 2016.Photo of Sarah Anderson working in a lab with a microscope

Molecular Genetics and Metabolism Reports is an open access journal that publishes molecular and metabolic reports describing investigations that use the tools of biochemistry and molecular biology for studies of normal and diseased states. The published study can be viewed here.

Students and Faculty Present at National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR)

Photo of Drs. Barton and Thomas with the two students that participated in NCURDr. Chris Barton (Biology) and Dr. Jennifer Thomas (Biology) and two of their students, Sarah Anderson and Anna Margaret McDonnell, both senior Biology majors, traveled to the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) on April 6-8.  NCUR, established in 1987, is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study by sponsoring an annual conference for students.  With more than 4,000 undergraduate students in attendance, this is the largest annual gathering of undergraduate research students. 

Anderson presented her senior research project, “Examining the Effect of Convallatoxin, a Cardiac Glycoside, on the Growth of Colorectal Cancer Cells” and McDonnell presented her senior research project, “Anti-proliferative Effects of Epigallocatechin-gallate and Enoxacin on Cervical Cancer-derived Cells in Culture”.  Drs. Barton and Thomas participated in the Faculty-Administrator Network Sessions and led a workshop entitled, “Envisioning, Implementing, and Assessing a Required Undergraduate Research Program in Biology”.

CSM Hosts Middle Collegiate Division of the Tennessee Academy of Science

The College of Sciences & Mathematics hosted the Middle Collegiate Division of the Tennessee Academy of Science on April 8, 2017. Nearly 30 students, mostly undergraduates, presented their research.   Belmont was very well represented with 22 students making presentations. Fisk University, Tennessee Tech, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State, and Sewanee were also represented.  Belmont faculty Drs. Rachel Rigsby, Darlene Panvini, Lori McGrew, Matt Heard, John Niedzwiecki, Justin Stace, and Danny Biles coordinated the event and served as session judges.
 tas_prep.jpgFrom the TAS website, “The Tennessee Academy of Science seeks to promote scientific research and the diffusion of knowledge concerning science; to secure communication between persons engaged in scientific work, especially in Tennessee; to assist by investigation and discussion in developing and making known the material, educational, and other resource and riches of the state; to arrange and prepare for publication such reports of investigations and discussions as they further the aims and objectives of the Academy.”

Click here to see abstracts of all TAS presentations.

Belmont had multiple students receive presentation awards:

Chemistry/Physics/Mathematics Session

  • Second Place: Cavity ring-down spectroscopy of gas-phase ions prepared via electrospray ionization. Bailey S. Rose*, Libby L. Ligon*, Thomas G. Spence. Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee. 
  • Third Place: Synthesis, characterization, and unusual solvation and luminescent properties of terbium amine complexes. Libby Ligon*, Justin Stace, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.

A photo of all of the Biology students that made presentations at TAS.Bio I: Ecology/Zoology/Botany Session

  • First Place (tie):
    Decomposition rates of Acer saccharum and Lonicera maackii in mixed litter bags. Anna Anderson* and Darlene Panvini, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • The effects of isoflurane on learning and spatial memory in Danio rerio. Curtis Brown* and        Lori McGrew, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Third Place: The effect of prey size on its antipredator behavior in a snail crayfish system. Joanna Sorrell* and John Niedzwiecki, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.

bio-ii-tas-awards.jpgBio II:  Cellular/Micro/Health Med. Sciences

  • First Place: Expansion on the nematode scent detection test: evaluating elegans attraction to non-small cell lung cancer. Brian R. Song* and Robert Grammer, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Second Place: Treatment effects of emetine on HCT-116 cells.  Kerry Sommers*, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Third Place: The effect of piracetam on Danio rerio with ethanol-induced memory impairment. Mohamed Darwish* and Lori McGrew, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Honorable Mention: Caffeine’s effect on the chemotaxis of elegans after a short exposure time. Madeline Johnson* and Robert Grammer, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Biology Students and Faculty Present Research at Joint ASB and Tri-Beta Conference

Photo of faculty and students at the ASB conferenceThree Biology faculty and eight students in Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, and Environmental Science attended the joint meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) and Beta Beta Beta in Montgomery, AL on March 29-April 1, 2017.  The Belmont faculty attending were Drs. Darlene Panvini, Chris Barton, and Matt Heard and students attending were Brian Song, Anna Margaret McDonnell, Gary Noel, Diana Neculcea, Stacey Crockett, Kody Muhic, Krystin Estes, and Sandra Bojic.

Photo of three students that won awards at ASB

Three students received awards in the Beta Beta Beta Division II oral presentations:  Anna Margaret McDonnell (1st place), Brian Song (3rd place), and Gary Noel (Honorable Mention). 

Research presentations covered a range of biology and teaching topics. 

  • Dr. Matthew Heard presented “Invasive Species Alter Parasite Communities in the Southeastern US”
  • Dr. Chris Barton presented “Metacognition in college students: what is it and why should faculty care about it?”
  • Brian Song, who worked with Robert Grammer, presented “Expansion on the Nematode Scent Detection Test: Evaluating elegans Attraction to Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer”
  • Anna Margaret McDonnell, who worked with Chris Barton, presented “Anti-proliferative effects of epigallocatechin-gallate and enoxacin on cervical cancer-derived cells in culture”
  • Gary Noel, who worked with Darlene Panvini, presented “The Effects of Fertilizer on Decomposition of Native and Invasive Exotic Plant Species in a Temperate Deciduous Forest”
  • Diana Neculcea, who worked with Chris Barton, presented “Investigating the anti-proliferative effects of the sesquiterpene Beta-Caryophyllene on HCT116 cells”
  • Stacey Crockett, who worked with Robert Grammer, presented “Insight Into the Chemotaxis of Caenorhabditis elegans Toward Pathogenic Bacillus Thuringiensis Strain 4A4 Using Chemosensory Deficient Nematodes “
  • Kody Muhic, who worked with John Niedzwiecki, presented “Examining Behavior Syndromes in Orconectes durelli Crayfish”
  • Krystin Estes, who worked with Chet Rakocinski and John Niedzwiecki, presented “The effects of a trophic cascade and trait-mediated interactions have on the survival rate of the Southern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)”
  • Sandra Bojic, who worked with John Niedzwiecki, presented “The impact of a reduced tree canopy cover on the composition of stream macroinvertebrate communities”

Dr. Matt Heard is co-mentoring Jordan Lewis, a student from Winthrop University,  who presented at the ASB meeting and won the first place Microbiology award for students. Heard was also a co-author for his talk along with Dr. Victoria Frost from Winthrop University. 


Students Present Research at Tennessee Academy of Sciences Meeting
Belmont Biology department faculty members Darlene Panvini, Nick Ragsdale, Chris Barton, Roger Jackson and Jennifer Thomas and Mathematics & Computer Science department faculty member Daniel Biles, along with 22 Belmont students, attended the 126th Meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences held at Austin Peay State University on November 19, 2016. 

The group of Belmont students and faculty that attended TAS

Belmont students and faculty that attended TAS

Belmont Biology faculty members that attended TAS

Belmont Biology faculty members Panvini, Ragsdale, Thomas and Barton

Students, primarily seniors, representing majors in Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, and Mathematics presented their undergraduate research projects in various poster sessions, ranging from Ecology and Environmental Science to Cell and Molecular Biology to Mathematics. 

Four Belmont students received recognition for their excellent work:
Anna Margaret McDonnell with her TAS award certificate

Anna Margaret McDonnell
received first place in the Health and Medical Science section

Gary Noel with his TAS award certificate

Gary Noel
received first place in the Ecology and Environmental Science section.

 Stacey Crockett with her TAS award certificate

Stacey Crockett
received second place in the Cell and Molecular Biology section. 

Sarah Anderson with her TAS award certificate

Sarah Anderson
received third place in the Health and Medical Science section.

In addition, faculty members, Dr. Chris Barton and Dr. Nick Ragsdale, served as section chairs in the Microbiology and Health and Medical Science section, respectively.  Dr. Danny Biles served as a judge for the Mathematics/ Computer Science student presentations.

Dr. Darlene Panvini and Dr. Chris Barton gave an oral presentation entitled, "DNA Barcoding as a Research and Teaching Tool in the Undergraduate Curriculum" and Dr. Jennifer Thomas presented her work entitled, "Connecting with Our Students: Traditional Approaches and Radical Ideas", both in the Science and Mathematics Teaching section. 

Click here to see a listing of all of the 21 Belmont research posters.

Biology and Environmental Science Students Present Research at SEPEEG Conference

SEPEEG Conference Attendees
Associate Professor of Biology John Niedzwiecki and seven Belmont seniors presented their Research Projects at the Poster session of the 43rd Southeast Population Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics (SEPEEG) Meeting held October 21-23, 2016 in Madison, Florida. The meeting, hosted by the University of Florida, included research presented by Faculty, Post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates from universities across the southeast including Belmont University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of South Carolina, Mississippi State, University of Alabama, Auburn University and Florida State University.

SEPEEG Meeting Participants
Belmont students Sandra Bojic, Jasmine Conyers, Krystin Estes, Shirley Kyere, Kody Muhic, Joanna Sorrell and Ryan Tapley each presented posters in the Saturday night poster session. Dr. Niedzwiecki is the co-author on the student’s research projects.

Barber Finds Success in Summer ‘Aspirnaut’ Program  
(Reprinted from Belmont FYI

Mary BarberMary Barber has aspired to study science and become a doctor since growing up in a small Tennessee town. This summer, her dreams of scientific success are coming more and more into view as she completes a 10-week internship as an “Aspirnaut” at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A rising sophomore and biochemistry/molecular biology major at Belmont, Barber is participating in the research intensive program for students with diverse backgrounds and strong desires to pursue careers in medicine.

Mary Barber RecognitionBarber said she’s wanted to devote her life to science and medicine for as long as she can remember. When looking for summer programs or internships after finishing her freshman year, Barber said Vanderbilt’s research internship, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, stuck out because of its commitment to excellence–both inside and outside the lab.

“I chose this program because of its authentic commitment to diversity, opportunity and science. The Aspirnaut program goes beyond laboratory research–it seeks students that can enrich the field with their unique life stories and provides the resources to expand the potential of every single student.”

Working in Dr. Billy Hudson’s lab in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Center for Matrix Biology and Department of Biochemistry, Barber’s research uses chemical and biochemical approaches to focus on understanding Goodpasture’s autoimmune disease. Her work seeks to better understand the medical mystery surrounding how the disease develops and how medicine can treat it. Despite the experience of working in a state-of-the-art research facility among the nation’s top medical minds, Barber said some of her favorite memories have been the ones shared with her colleagues–fellow students, professors, researchers, doctors and even artists.

“I have enjoyed the amazing networking opportunities–and meeting some incredible people with the same vision for life as me,” Barber said. “I have been able to have intimate, important conversations with individuals that can help mold my future in a profound way. We are truly a mosaic of personalities and each person has a special quality they contribute.”

Barber looks to the program’s directors, Drs. Billy and Julie Hudson, for the experience’s transformative qualities. “They told us on the first day that we would learn a lot about science during our time here, but we would learn more about ourselves,” Barber said. “The truth within their words is astounding.” From learning how she interacts with others, to how she deals with challenges to how thinking creatively within the sciences is necessary, Barber said her time as an Aspirnaut has only strengthened the passions she developed as a child.

“Know that what I do in the lab can contribute to the solution for a human problem excites me and encourages me to continue working hard,” Barber said. “The key insights that I have gained through my coursework and extracurricular activities show me where my true passion lies and how far I can carry those things with me in the future.”

Belmont Students present Summer Research at 16th Annual Los Alamos National Laboratory Student Research Symposium

Belmont students from the College of Science and Mathematics presented their summer research at the highly competitive Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Student Research Symposium on August 3, 2016. Ambrose Rice, a senior biology major, and Sherif Helmey, a junior biology major, joined over 200 of the best and brightest undergraduate students from all over the country that have been working hard all summer on cutting edge research projects at LANL.  The student symposium is the capstone event for these young researchers after spending 10 weeks at the lab. In its 16th year with a theme of “Celebrating Student Achievement”, students must submit abstracts and put together a scientific poster that is judged by LANL staff scientists and is open to the public. Here is a link to the full symposium list of abstracts: 2016 Symposium Abstract Book Final


Ambrose’s poster was titled, “Enhancing Lignin Degradation: The Holy Grail of Cellulosic Bio-fuel Production”.

Sherif Helmey

Sherif’s poster was titled, “A Better Understanding of Protein Structure and Function by the Synthesis and Incorporation of Selenium- and Tellurium- Containing Tryptophan Analogs”.

Both students were at LANL as part of a federal Department of Energy (DOE) grant valued at $29,000 that was awarded to Dr. Duane Hatch, assistant professor from the department of chemistry and physics, titled, “Bio-incorporation of a Se-Containing Tryptophan Analog (SeTrp) into Lignin Peroxidase (LiP) to Study the Enhanced Catalytic Ability Towards Lignin Model Compounds and Dyes”.  As part of the grant, Dr. Hatch is able to spend the summer at Los Alamos National Lab conducting his proposed research and can select up to two undergraduate students to accompany him, each with a very generous stipend that covers travel, housing, and salary for the full 10 weeks. Dr. Hatch serves as the Principal Investigator and LANL staff scientists, Dr. Pete Silks and Dr. Ricardo Marti-Arbona (both from the Bioscience Division, B-11) serve as CO-PIs and mentors to the students.  


Lindsay MillwardBiology alum Lindsay Millward (2016) received the first place Frank G. Brooks Award for Excellence in Student Research in Ecology at the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society National Convention in St. Paul, MN in June 2016.  Lindsay’s research was on “Leaf Decomposition Rate Differs Between Invasive Exotic Lonicera maackii and Native Acer saccharum in a Temperate Deciduous Forest” that she completed as part of her senior research project with biology professor Dr. Darlene Panvini.  In April, Lindsay won first place in the regional Tri Beta District II oral presentation session and received an award that paid for her expenses to the national convention.  Lindsay will begin a Master’s program in ecology this fall at Central Washington University where she received a teaching assistantship.   

College of Sciences & Mathematics Hosts the Tennessee
Academy of Science – Middle Tennessee Regional Meeting

Belmont University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics hosted the annual Middle Tennessee Regional Meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Science in the Janet Ayers Academic Center (formerly Wedgewood Academic Center) on April 16, 2016.  This event has served as an opportunity for our students to showcase their scholarly work and to foster collaboration with other local universities.  This year there were 33 students from Belmont University, Cumberland University, Fisk, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, and Vanderbilt University, presenting their research as oral presentations in one of four different sessions:  Mathematics/Computer Science/Physics, Chemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Health and Medical Sciences.

The meeting was coordinated and run by Dr. Duane Hatch, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. All sessions were moderated and judged by faculty volunteers, who awarded 1st, 2nd, 3rd place certificates to the top three presenters in each session. Faculty judges were Dr. Lori McGrew (BU Biology), Dr. Steve Murphree (BU Biology), Dr. Danielle Garrett (BU Chemistry), Dr. Steven Damo (Fisk), Dr. Qingxiu Li (Fisk), Dr. Kim Atwood (Cumberland University), and Dr. Mary Kidd (Tennessee Tech University).

The following are the winners from each session:

  • Chemistry: 1st - Daniel Beagan (Belmont), 2nd - Shekinah Baum (Belmont), 3rd tie - Rukiayah Warner (Fisk) and Libby Ligon (Belmont)
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology: 1st – Alexandra Ruff (Vandy), 2nd – Alyssa Tidwell (Belmont), 3rd – Kathryn Hook (Belmont)
  • Health and Medical Sciences: 1st – Parker Tumlin (Belmont), 2nd – Araceli Garland (Belmont), 3rd - Brandy Sweet (Belmont)
  • Math/CS/Physics: 1st – Sharee Brewer and Ashley Davis (Fisk), 2nd - Tucker Dowell (Belmont), 3rd tie – Howsikan Kugathasan (Fisk) and Gwendolyn Buchanan (TTU)

Tennessee Academy of Science - Math & Physics       Tennessee Academy of Science - Health Science
Mathematics/Computer Science/Physics
               Health and Medical Sciences

Tennessee Academy of Science - Chemistry Tennessee Academy of Science - Molecular Science

           Cellular and Molecular Biology

Science Students Present Research at Undergraduate Research Conference

Butler University ConferenceBelmont Biology department faculty members Drs. Darlene Panvini and Laura Stephan, along with 5 Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience majors, attended the 28th Undergraduate Research Conference at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN on April 8, 2016.  The conference was attended by over 900 individuals representing 58 different colleges and universities from 11 states.  Presentations were in varied disciplines, including sciences, humanities, and social sciences. 

The following Belmont students gave oral presentations at the conference -- Julisa Nunez, Eeleyah Tanwar, Angel Brothers, Morgan Turner, and Robin Weyman:


Association of Southeastern BiologistsBelmont Biology department faculty members Drs. Darlene Panvini, Nick Ragsdale, Chris Barton, John Niedzwiecki, and Jennifer Thomas, along with 20 Biology, Environmental Science, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience majors, attended the 77th Annual Meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists held in Concord, NC on March 31 – April 1, 2016. According to their website “The Association of Southeastern Biologists (ASB) is the largest scientific professional organization in the Southeastern US with ~1400 members from 220 academic and 60 non-academic institutions.  Their mission to promote Biology through research and education is supported each spring with an Annual Meeting where faculty and students (both graduates and undergraduates) are welcomed to present their research in a friendly, collegial environment that encourages positive and supportive feedback.”

Lindsay Millward

Lindsay Millward
won first place in the Tri Beta District II oral presentation session and will go to the National Tri-Beta Convention in May. 

Taeler Dahm

Taeler Dahm
 won first place in the Cellular and Molecular Oral Presentation, which included a $300 check from ASB and a certificate.

Belmont University was also recognized for having the most abstracts submitted.
The Belmont students and faculty gave the following oral presentations at the conference:

Student Presentations:

  • Vian Pulous, Christopher E. Barton, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Transcriptional Regulation of RGS2 by P53 in Colorectal Cancer Cells
  • Sara Haney, A. Darlene Panvini, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Effects of Exotic Earthworms and Exotic Plants on Soil Invertebrate Abundance and Diversity
  • Katlin Stodard, A. Darlene Panvini, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Decomposition of Acer saccharum and Lonicera maackii Leaf Litter in a First Order Stream
  • Alexandria Jeffers, A. Darlene Panvini, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Water Quality and Macroinvertebrate Diversity in Closed-Canopied and Open-Canopied Sections of an Urban Stream in Nashville, TN
  • Bryan R. Eoff, Nick Ragsdale, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Caenorhabditis elegans Response to Hyperglycemic and Hypoxic Conditions Post Infection with Staphylococcus aureus
  • Zara Latif, Nick Ragsdale, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Utilization of Obese Worms to Investigate the Link between Parkinson’s Disease and Obesity
  • Miranda West, Nick Ragsdale, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Potential Protective Effects of Nicotine in C. elegans Treated with 6-OHDA
  • Taeler Dahm, Christopher E. Barton, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    p53 Mediated Regulation of CCNH in Response to Paclitaxel-Induced Mitotic Stress
  • Jeff King, Christopher E. Barton, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Effect of p53 Status on S100A13 Expression in Response to Oxidative Stress
  • Jasmin Mohn, Christopher E. Barton, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Investigation into the Regulation of CST6 by P53 Following Cellular Stress
  • Nelly Grigorian, Christopher E. Barton, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    A Study of the Role of P53 in the Regulation of MARCKS Expression
  • Tessa Shupe, Lori L McGrew, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    The Effects of Bupropion on the Working Memory of Anxious Danio Rerio
  • Laura Horton, A. Darlene Panvini, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Abundance of Earthworms Relative to Leaf Litter Mass and Exotic Plant Coverage
  • Ayda Porkar-Rezaeieh, A. Darlene Panvini, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Biomass and Diversity of Earthworms is Affected by Presence of Exotic Shrubs
  • Walter Burn, A. Darlene Panvini, Environmental Science, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Biodiversity of Macroinvertebrates in a First Order Spring-Fed Stream on the Belle Forest Cave Property, Bellevue Tennessee
  • Danielle Aument, Nick Ragsdale, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Utilization of Alpha-Lipoic Acid as an Antioxidant in the Presence of 6-OHDA
  • Dora Geving, Nick Ragsdale, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Implications of Parkinson’s Disease in Nematodes Treated with the Insecticide Permethrin
  • Chase Mackey, Nick Ragsdale, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Circadian Rhythm Dependence of Habituation in C. elegans
  • Emily K. Deas, Robert T. Grammer, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    The Effects of Glucose, Saccharine, Aspartame, and Sucralose on Longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Lindsay Millward, A. Darlene Panvini, Mu Theta, Belmont U
    Differences in leaf decomposition rates between invasive exotic Lonicera maackii and native Acer saccharum in a temperate deciduous forest

Faculty Presentations:

  • Jennifer T. Thomas, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    A Strategic and Multi-level Approach for Teaching Undergraduates How to Read Scientific Articles
  • Christopher E. Barton, A. Darlene Panvini, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Promoting Student Well-Being in STEM through Community and Civic Engagement
  • John H. Niedzwiecki, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    Teaching the Value of Sustained Observation: A Multiweek Research Experience in Animal Behavior at the Zoo
  • Christopher E. Barton, Biology, Belmont U, Nashville, TN
    A Model for Interprofessional Collaboration That Promotes Student Learning and Faculty Development in Undergraduate Anatomy and Physiology Course