- by Mount Saint Mary College

Mount Saint Mary College students Eleanora Robinson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and Sharifa Kelly of Monroe, N.Y. recently received the college's Student Research Scholarship Award for research they conducted with faculty mentors and presented at conferences.

Developed by the Mount's Research on Campus Committee (ROCC), the Student Research Scholarship Award recognizes outstanding undergraduate student scholarship at the Mount. It's awarded to students who have performed research under the guidance of Mount faculty member(s). Funds awarded to the recipients are used to help them attend conferences to present their work. To apply, students write a statement about their project and how being able to participate in the conference would benefit them as an undergraduate student and in their post-graduate career.

Robinson received the award for her research and presentation at the 2021 Eastern College Science Conference (ECSC). It was titled "Evolutionary Analysis of Drosophila Ananassae Ttll4a And Wun2 Pseudogenes."

She noted that due to COVID-19 precautions, ECSC was virtual this year, allowing a broader dissemination of her presentation than other in-person conferences she has attended in the past.

"That was something really unique about this and I enjoyed it," Robinson explained.

Kelly was honored for her research "The Effects of Thyroxine on the Metamorphosis of Gray Tree Frogs," which she presented at the 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.

Kelly's research was presented in video format at the AAAS meeting. This medium required more work than an in-person discussion would have, but like Robinson, she was pleased that her audience was much broader.

Robinson and Kelly have participated extensively in the Mount's Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), a paid internship program where undergraduate students engage in scholarly research projects. The seeds for their award-winning presentations were planted at these sessions.

"This [award] is something that we really appreciate for our students and what it means for their's really important that you are out and attending these types of events in our academic community," explained James Moran, associate professor of Biology and head of the Mount's SURE program. "There is no shortage of positives associated with students doing these types of things," for both the individual scholars and the Mount academic community as a whole, he added.

Robinson's contributions to SURE include "Annotation of Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Genomes" and "Investigation and Analysis of Novel Microbacterium Phages Discovered on the Mount Saint Mary College Campus," both with Mount faculty mentors Evan Merkhofer, assistant professor of Biology, and Suparna Bhalla, associate professor of Biology.

Some of Kelly's SURE projects have included "Ecotoxicity of Common Herbicides: Effect on the Head Regeneration and Behavior of the Brown Planaria (Girardia Tigrina)," "The Effects of Thyroxine on Tree Frog Metamorphosis," and most recently, "The Effects of Thyroxine on Arginase Gene Activity and Urea Excretion in Tree Frogs." Carl Hoegler, professor of Biology, served as Kelly's mentor for all three of these projects.

"Sharifa worked very, very hard during a year where there was a lot of uncertainty in terms of doing research," explained Hoegler, adding that the scholar obtained frog embryos and did some of her research at home out of necessity. "It was quite impressive."


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