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Biology and Molecular Biology Majors Participated, Placed at District Convention

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Four students from the Westminster College Department of Biology presented their research at the Beta Beta Beta district convention March 31 at St. Francis University.

Beta Beta Beta, also known as Tri-Beta, is a national biology honor society.  The district conventions provide undergraduate students an opportunity to present their work in an environment that promotes undergraduate research and enhances the exchange of ideas within the biological sciences.

Posters and oral presentations were reviewed by faculty, providing useful feedback on the research as well as the presentation.  Students had the opportunity to earn first, second, or third prize or honorable mention.  First-place winners were awarded $700 toward attendance at the national Tri-Beta convention in Puerto Rico.

Katie Sinagoga, a senior molecular biology major in Westminster's All-College Honors program, earned first prize for her oral presentation on suppression of biofilm formation in Staphylococcus aureus.  Her research was advised by Dr. Joshua Corrette-Bennett, associate professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Biology, who attended the convention.

Sinagoga is a daughter of John and MaryBeth Sinagoga of Imperial and a graduate of West Allegheny High School.

Senior biology major Kaylynn Coates earned second prize for her oral presentation on the role of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in Pogonomyrmex barbatus (harvester ant) nestmate recognition.  Her work was supervised by Dr. Katherine Robertson, associate professor of biology, who attended the convention.

Coates is a daughter of Gary and Sally Coates of Greenville and a graduate of Reynolds High School.

Junior biology major Samantha Gibson earned honorable mention for her poster presentation on the role of acetylcholine in insect olfaction.  Robertson is her faculty adviser.

Gibson is a daughter of Samuel and Susan Gibson of Sharpsville and a graduate of Kennedy Catholic High School.

Senior biology major Briana Isenberg presented her research on the frequency of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on campus and its transmission on non-porous surfaces.  Her work was supervised by Dr. Joseph Balczon, associate professor of biology.

Isenberg is a daughter of Gordon and Priscilla Isenberg of Huntingdon and a graduate of Huntingdon Area High School.

"I was impressed by the performance of our students," Corrette-Bennett said.  "All four were extremely knowledgeable about their projects and professional in their demeanor and presentation.  It is very rewarding to have faculty from other institutions recognize the research accomplishments of our students."

Contact Corrette-Bennett at (724) 946-7208 or email for additional information. 

Much of the research done by these students was supported by undergraduate research grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.

The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences.  Visit the Drinko website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

(L-r) Briana Isenberg, Kaylynn Coates, Dr. Steven Ropski (Tri-Beta faculty adviser at Gannon who presented the awards), Katie Sinagoga, Samantha Gibson