Two Maryville College UR Students Named 2021 Ledford Scholars

Two Maryville College students have been granted a total of more than $9,000 through the Appalachian College Association’s (ACA) Ledford Scholarship to fund summer research projects. 

Named for Colonel Lee B. Ledford, the scholarship program offers financial assistance for students who are enrolled at ACA member institutions and conducting summer research in the fields of laboratory and field work, interviews, analyzing special collections and participant observation.

“I’m pleased and proud that the ACA awarded Ledford Scholarships to two of our students. We’ve received several over the years, in fact. But I’m always grateful for more support.” said Dr. Dan Klingensmith, vice president and dean of the College. “Undergraduate research is a great way of learning problem-solving skills and critical thinking – and patience, too! Experience in research at the undergrad level also gives students an advantage in applying to graduate school.”

A total of 42 students enrolled at 16 ACA institutions were awarded scholarships. The student will present the outcomes of their research at the annual ACA Summit in the fall. 

Lamb studying terpenes in fermentation process

Mackenzie Lamb ’23, a chemistry major from Powell, Tenn., was awarded $4,600 Ledford Scholarship to research terpenes, or the aromatic and flavor compounds, in hops. 

“I’m looking at the bioconversion of terpenes in the fermentation process, but I’m specifically looking at the hops rather than the beer itself,” said Lamb, who is working under the supervision of Dr. Nathan Duncan, associate professor of Chemistry at MC. “Right now, I’ve been running lots of extractions on different strains and varieties of hops.”

The primary goal of this project is to determine if and what extent new terpene compounds are formed when various hop terpenes are introduced to a fermentable environment consisting of a basic media of yeast and sugar, according to the project proposal. Secondary goals are to determine what affects changes in temperature, pressure, and yeast strain have on terpene bioconversion and production during fermentation. 

Lamb said she approached Duncan about research opportunities, and when he told her about the beer project, she found it really interesting. She hopes to keep working on it throughout her time at MC and “make it almost three years’ worth of work as a Senior Study, ” and she hopes to be able to publish her results following the completion of the project. 

“I’m starting to fall in love with this side of it because it’s not something that I’ve been exposed to – in general chemistry and organic lab, you don’t really get that full lab experience – now that I’m in the lab every day, I just love it, ” she said. “I’m getting so much instrumentation experience that a lot of people don’t even get as an undergrad, not to mention just the research experience itself. All these things that I can add onto a resume whenever I’m applying to grad schools and different jobs, too. I think it’s going to be huge for me.”

Brown analyzing Arctic ocean bed sediments

Arianna Brown ’24, a rising sophomore who is double majoring in biochemistry and exercise science, received a $4,600 Ledford Scholarship to study the potential effects that climate change will have on the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients – and how that will affect microbial communities living in the Arctic. 

She is working under the supervision of Dr. Jow Buongiorno, assistant professor of environment biology at MC, who collected Arctic ocean bed sediments in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard during previous research projects.

“I am analyzing sediment of Svalbard fjords and how benthic microorganisms rely on terrestrial nutrients for their metabolic processes, including carbon demineralization through iron and sulfate reduction,” said Brown, who is from Maryville, Tenn. “In addition, these microorganisms are key players in alterations of reactive pools of iron, which has direct implications for the delivery of biolabile iron for primary productivity on the shelf. This is important work in terms of climate change because the Arctic has experienced changes in glacial hydrology, including ice thinning and glacial retreat because it is warming at a rate two to three times faster than the rest of the globe.”

Brown said she became interested while reading Buongiorno’s published journal articles on research preceding this project. 

“Microbiology never seemed to interest me much before, because I found it difficult to connect procedures in a lab to the real biological processes and their impacts in the real world,” said Brown. “Dr. Buongiorno’s papers helped me to see how the smallest DNA fragments can provide us with so much knowledge about the processes happening in arctic fjords thousands of miles away, and what those processes mean about the changing world. I wanted to be a part of a deep dive into one of the many effects of climate warming and was excited to start with this project.”

Brown said the Ledford Scholarship will allow her to fain experience in many lab processes and data analysis, such as the quantification of bacteria and archea using qPCR – and understanding and being able to perform this test and many others is “essential to my growth as a scientist, ” she said. This scholarship will allow her to collaborate with students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who are working on similar projects. 

“This collaboration along with learning more about working in a lab and biogeochemistry and microbial communities will provide me with invaluable experiences and knowledge to prepare me in my education journey going forward,” she said. “I have fallen in love with the work that I am doing, and the work of scientists who have and are working on similar projects. I could continue to do research on different projects similar to this one for my Senior Study, but being an upcoming sophomore, I am open to other learning opportunities as well.”

With aspirations to attend medical school after graduating Maryville College, Brown said her research experience will be invaluable during the medical school application process, as well as her time in medical school.

“Going into medical school requires one to be well-educated in many different sciences and be well versed in the scientific research literature, ” she said. “Research during undergrad is favored for candidates applying to medical school. An example of processes applicable to the medical field is qPCR, which is the most reliable test for COVID-19 testing. This test and others have many applications that will be central to developing my lab skills. Because this is my first experience being able to learn one-on-one and having independence in a lab, this opportunity provides me with the ability to learn and develop my research skills with Dr. Biongiorno’s guidance.” 

Written by: MC News 

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Founded in 1978, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) focuses on providing high-quality and collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity. Among the many activities and networking opportunities that CUR provides, the organization also offers support for the professional growth of faculty and administrators through expert-designed institutes, conferences, and a wide-range of volunteer positions. The CUR community, made up of nearly 700 institutions and 13,000 individuals, continues to provide a platform for discussion and other resources related to mentoring, connecting, and creating relationships centered around undergraduate research. CUR’s advocacy efforts are also a large portion of its work as they strive to strengthen support for undergraduate research. Its continued growth in connections with representatives, private foundations, government agencies, and campuses world-wide provides value to its members and gives voice to undergraduate research. CUR is committed to inclusivity and diversity in all of its activities and our community.

CUR focuses on giving a voice to undergraduate research with learning through doing. It provides connections to a multitude of campuses and government agencies, all while promoting networking and professional growth to its community.