Undergraduate Research in Biology


February 27, 2008 - Amongst stiff competition from 600 students and faculty gathered at the Mississippi Academy of Sciences Meeting, four Belhaven Biology majors secured prizes in several notable categories.

The conference, held February 21-22 in Olive Branch, brought together science students and faculty from research and teaching institutions throughout the state. Belhaven University undergrads, Jerry Zifodya, Steven Thornton, Rumbi Chiposi and Peter Mittwede, along with faculty member, Dr. Robert Waltzer, submitted research presentations.

In the Undergraduate Health Sciences Poster division, Zifodya took First place, followed in Second, by the Trypanosoma Research Team of Chiposi, Mittwede, Thornton and Zifodya. Mary Hamilton Chestnut, daughter of Belhaven Biology Chair, Al Chestnut, took Third place in the poster presentation.

Thornton also won Second place for his Undergraduate Oral Presentation, further advancing an already successful day for the Belhaven Biology department. Presentation specifics as follows:

1st Place, Health Science Poster - Jerry Zifodya, "Development of Methodology to Evaluate Antioxidant Properties of water-soluble Extracts of Natural Compounds"

2nd Place, Health Science Poster - Rumbi Chiposi, Peter Mittwede, Steven Thornton, Jerry Zifodya presented together, "The Effect of Arabinogalactan and Ellagic Acid Injected Individually and Synergistically in Trypanosoma Lewisi Infected Rats"

3rd Place, Health Science Poster - Mary Hamilton Chestnut, "Mechanism of Trichomonas Resistance"

2nd Place, Oral Presentation - Steven Thornton, "Characterization of Protease Production in a Pseudomonas aeruginosa Mutant"

Belhaven University's undergraduate research has focused primarily on trypanosomes, which are blood flukes, ranked among the top ten parasitic killers in the world. They are a significant cause of death and economic difficulty in third world countries; they are best known for causing the disease African Sleeping Sickness, which has no cure.

Students research, design, and perform studies using Trypanosoma lewisi, a non-pathogenic (i.e., non-disease causing) species that infects rats. Many research projects have studied the effects of nutrition on parasitic infection - two main obstacles in treating trypanosome infections in humans are cost and toxicity. Nutritional factors are usually cheap and abundant.

Examples of previous research projects include:

"The Effect of Ellagic Acid Administered Intraperitoneally and Orally in Trypanosoma lewisi Infected Rats" (2006)
Joan Dickerson, Emily Fortenberry, Carey Klotz, marlena Mattingly, Zack Owens, and Aubrey Voorbrood

The Effect of Green Tea Extract, Administered Both Preventatively & Upon Infection, in Trypanosoma lewisi Infected Rats (2005)
Laura Herrington, Allen Jarrett, Tara Klamm, Daniel Neil

The Effect of Curcumin & Beta Glucan Individually & in Combination on Trypanosoma lewisi Infected Rats (2005)
Brian Kirby, Gabrielle Pickle, Jared White, John Shapiro

The Effects of D-Carnitine and Quercetin on T. lewisi infections in Rats (2004)
Catherine Karlak, Rebecca Rose, Frank Lovell

The Effect of Vinca Alkaloids in T. lewisi in Rats (2003)
Jennifer Craft, Samantha Morris, Amanda Ruth

Quantitative Analysis of the Glycolytic Activity of Human Serum, HDLs, LDLs, & Lipoprotein Deficient Serum on Trypanosoma lewisi. (1998)
Frank Hux, Chad Knecht

Effect of Vitamin A on T. lewisi Infection (1996)
Trey Polk, Allen Tuberville

Effect of Pantothenic Acid on T. lewisi Infection (1996)
Krista Boyette, Christina Graybeal, Lea Montgomery

An Analysis of the Long-term Maintenance & Infective Capabilities of in vitro Cultured Trypanosoma lewisi in Supplemented Grace's Insect Tissue Culture Medium & Schneider's Drosophila Medium. (1998)
Brad Franklin, Stacey Hardin, Greg Stevens

Immunity to Trypanosoma lewisi (1995)
Brad Hayes, Tanya McBride

The Effect of Attenuated Trypanosoma musculi on IgG Antibody Levels of Inbred Mice (1997)
Jeremy Allen, Vicki Jensen, Barrett Jones, Matthew Jones, Jennifer McMurry, Melissa Morris, Trey Polk, Jason Spellings

Effect of Hydrocortisone on T. lewisi Infection (1998)
Sammy Johnson, Chris Steijer, Kristi Tucker