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Biology Students Presented Research, Earned Awards at District Conference

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Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2015

Five Westminster College biology students presented their research at the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honors Society district conference at the State University of New York Geneseo in April.

Alyssa Simmons, a recent graduate in molecular biology, presented “Observing bone regeneration in the median axolotl through x-ray imaging.” She earned first place in her oral presentation session, qualifying her for a travel grant to present the research at the Biennial National tri-Beta Conference in St. Paul, Minn., in 2016. Her project was advised by Dr. Joshua Corrette-Bennett, associate professor and chair of Westminster’s Department of Biology, who attended the conference.

Simmons is a daughter of Richard and Carrie Simmons of Canfield, Ohio, and a graduate of Canfield High School.

Leanna Rinehart, a recent graduate in molecular biology, earned second place in her oral presentation session for “Determining methylation status in the PIWIL1 promoter during limb regeneration of axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum).” Corrette-Bennett was her adviser.

Rinehart is a daughter of Annette Rinehart of Minerva, Ohio, and a graduate of Minerva High School.

David Starr, a recent graduate in molecular biology, earned second place in his oral presentation session for his senior capstone and independent study projects, “Effects of buylayted hydroxytolune on zebrafish.” His adviser was Dr. Marosh Furimsky, associate professor of biology.

Starr is a son of Dita Mawhinney and Scott Mawhinney, both of Pittsburgh, and a graduate of Plum High School.

Valerie DeSilva, a recent graduate in molecular biology, earned third place in her poster session for her senior capstone research, “Suppression of biofilm formation in Staphylococcus aureus using siHybrid targeting of the staphylococcal accessory regulator protein (SarA).” Corrette-Bennett was her adviser.

DeSilva is a daughter of Jeffrey and Judi DeSilva of Greenville and a graduate of Greenville High School.

Samantha Shick, a recent graduate in biology, presented results from her senior capstone research project, “Effects of microclimate on Eastern bluebird meet-site selection, incubation behavior, and reproductive success.” Her research adviser was Dr. Kerri Duerr, assistant professor of biology.

Shick is a daughter of Michelle Shick and Dale Shick, both of Marion Center, and a graduate of Marion Center Area High School.

“I am extremely impressed with the accomplishments and abilities of our students,” Corrette-Bennett said. “They consistently exceed my expectations at these district conferences, but that is most likely due to the extra time and extra effort they put into their projects and presentations. They have worked with their advisers at a level that is above and beyond the typical undergraduate experience and have taken the initiative to use their senior capstone and Honors projects as an intellectual springboard to explore their areas of interest in even more depth.”

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