TriBeta Honor society students awarded national grant

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ABAC students Corey Brooke and Michele Moncrief were awarded first place in a national research grant competition from the Beta Beta Beta Biological Society Research Foundation (TriBeta). The students conducted mentored research under Joanna Gress, assistant professor of Biology and the advisor of ABAC’s TriBeta Biological Honor Society. Their research proposal was entitled, “The effects of nicotine and niacin on chemoreception in fall armyworms, a major pest of sweet corn in the Southeastern United States.”

TriBeta is difficult to become a member of, students must maintain a 3.5 or higher GPA throughout every academic year, must have taken certain prerequisite courses, and be invited to join after a year with the club.

The two students were presented with a $350 grant to continue funding their research. “They will be presenting the results of the project in April in Memphis at the TriBeta Regional Convention at the Association of Southeastern Biologists conference,” said Gress. By then Brooke will be an ABAC biology graduate. “This is something like a gold star for our resume,” said Brooke.

While ABAC’s TriBeta has attended conferences before, this year was their first time entering the competition. “I’m really proud of them, they did so much themselves, I helped when they needed me, but it was all them,” said Gress.

At the Southeastern Entomological Society of America in Orlando, Brooke and Moncrief presented their research poster which got a lot of attention. “We were doing stuff that isn’t for undergraduate students,” said Moncrief. The experiment involved tracking forced physiological changes in the worms caused by the chemicals in nicotine and niacin.

The objective was to learn how they could disrupt the worms’ ability to detect correctly what it is touching. The chemicals become a sort of repellent. The students had to become familiar with a program that isn’t used by anybody else on campus. “We aren’t an R1 research institution, so technically we aren’t supposed to have it [a DNA sequence. But it was difficult learning this multi-thousand dollar machine and just hoping I don’t break something,” said Brooke. Only a few in the biology department have the knowledge to work the program including Gress.

The students spent much of their presentation explaining the technical side of things instead of the research itself. “It’s something that not a lot of students get to experience, especially undergraduates. When we were there, somebody assumed we were doing doctoral research,” said Moncrief.

Gress says that doing mentored research is pretty important for any science major. “If you can get the opportunity to do research, you should take it. We can’t guarantee that you will win a national prize, but it is something that will help you if you want to continue your education or get a job. It’s a valuable skill to have and it looks really good on any application.”
If you would like to know more about TriBetta or mentored research, contact Joanna Gress at jgress@abac.edu.

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