• UWA students awarded at Undergraduate Research Symposium

    Posted: March 21, 2013

    Author: Sydney Meeks

    The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of West Alabama hosted its second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Tuesday, March 12. Several students received awards for their research and creative projects.

    Campus organizations and other sponsors offer monetary awards to encourage and reward student researchers. The President’s Award, offered by UWA President D. Richard Holland, carries a $200 cash prize. The President’s Award recipient was Caitlyn Bonham for her project entitled “Usage of Viral and Fungal Symbionts to Improve Crop Production.”

    Bonham’s research is valuable for the possible development of natural and sustainable ways to increase crop productivity without the need of synthetic chemicals that harm the environment and inhabitants’ health. Bonham’s findings will have an impact not only on the agricultural industry in the state of Alabama, but also on nationwide industries.

    Bonham said, “I have decided to pursue my education and continue on to graduate school at UWA. I believe that working as an undergraduate researcher has influenced me in striving to achieve this goal.”

    Bonham, a native of Springville, Ala., has received recognition from the National Institute of Undergraduate Research in Washington, DC. She received an honorable mention among the 900 submissions for exhibit in the Capitol, with only 60 projects to be included. Bonham’s work was considered among several Ivy League schools and other major contributors of student research.

    Cory Chance received the President’s Award in 2012 and has continued his research at a higher level as well. He said of his experience at the national conference, “The Undergraduate Research Symposium at UWA helped prepare me for the 2013 Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference at the University of Central Florida. The structure of the Symposium at UWA gave me a strong indication of what to expect when presenting at Central Florida. With the support of Dean Culpepper, Dr. McCall, and the entire UWA biology department, I was able to successfully present our research.”

    Another special award was presented by Madoline Thurn in memory of her late husband and UWA geology professor, Richard Thurn. The recipients of the Thurn Award are Natalia Cardenas and Dominique Hill.

    Other award winners include: the Provost’s Award, Tara Grayson; the Dean’s Award, Josh Millwood; the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences Award, Richard Alsabrook; and the Office of Sponsored Program’s Award, Sarah Jessica McDill.

    Jennifer Cooper, a former UWA student who now serves as a biology instructor at Itawamba Community College, said, “The UWA Undergraduate Research Symposium was a tremendous event for everyone in attendance. Very few undergraduates, at any college or university, get the opportunity to be exposed to this type of hands-on research experience while working side-by-side with their professors. I commend the science and mathematics professors at UWA for involving undergraduates in research and for giving their students a distinct advantage over other undergraduates in this highly competitive field.”

    For more information on participation in the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium, contact Dr. Mustafa Morsy, assistant professor of biological and environmental sciences, via email mmorsy@uwa.edu or call 205-652-5541.

    Photo 1: Caitlin Bonham, 2013 President’s Award recipient
    Photo 2: Madoline Thurn (center) with Natalia Cardenas (left) and Dominque Hill (right), recipients of the the Thurn Award, presented in memory of the late emeritus professor Richard L. Thurn
    Photo 3: The 2013 Undergraduate Research Symposium participants and professors with Dean Sammy Culpepper and UWA President Richard D. Holland


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