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Division of Science and Mathematics Announces Symposium Winners

The Division of Science and Mathematics and the Emerging Caribbean Scientists (ECS) program are pleased to announce that Shellese Cannonier, Mary Mootoo, Odari Thomas and Cherissre Tyrell-Boateng are the winners of the 11th Annual Fall Student Research Symposium. The symposium was held on September 20, 2009 on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas Campus.

The symposium offers undergraduate student researchers at UVI an opportunity to gain experience in making formal presentations of their research findings. Each year, the symposium's student presentations are evaluated by a panel of judges for scientific content and clarity of presentation. More than 50 UVI students presented research that they conducted over the summer at UVI and other national institutions. A faculty mentor provided assistance for each project.

Shellese Cannonier, a junior biology major, was honored for her summer research project, "Nuclear Receptors Identified in Migratory Cells of Drosophila Egg Chambers". Her faculty advisor for this project was Dr. Michelle Starz-Gaiano, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Cannonier is a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Research Trainee. This summer she also participated in a research internship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with Dr. Susan Wong. She continues to conduct research at UVI with Dr. Sandra Romano on coral genetics.

Mary Mootoo, a senior Computer Science major, was distinguished for her research on "Bayesian Networks for Mining Census Data in Order to Develop Effective Marketing Strategies". Mootoo is an Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Scholar. She was mentored by UVI Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Marc Boumedine in the 2009 Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program at UVI this summer. She continues to conduct research with Dr. Boumedine.

Odari Thomas, a sophomore applied mathematics major, was recognized for his research entitled "Mathematical Models of Digital Sounds to reproduce Human voices." Thomas is a South East Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (SEAGEP) Scholar, He also participated in the Summer Bridge 2 Calculus Program in 2008.

Thomas was mentored by Dr. Dirk Schlingmann in the 2009 Sophomore Science Research Institute (SSRI) at UVI this summer. Dr. Schlingmann is Professor of Mathematics at Eastern Kentucky University. This was his first competitive presentation. He is currently studying star formation with his UVI mentor Professor Cynthia Gomez Martin.

Cherissre Tyrell-Boateng is a senior biology major and a MARC Research Trainee. She was honored for her research entitled "Can a Conserved Regulator for Fungal Morphology Propagate as a Prion?" Her advisor over the summer was Dr. Alexander Johnson of the Department of Microbiology/Immunology, University of California San Francisco.

Since 2007, Cherissre has conducted research with her UVI Mentor Dr. Romano. She won the first-time presenter award at the 2007 Fall Research Symposium for her research on coral genetics. She was an MBRS RISE Scholar from 2007-2008.

Participants presented research projects under the direction of mentors at UVI and at other universities and at laboratories across the nation. Presenters showcased their research on a variety of topics related to number theory, bacterial flora, St. Croix sheep population, reef fish, DNA classification, acetaminophen absorption, ovarian cancer, and the risk factors of adoption in shelter puppies and kittens. Some students conducted research during UVI's on-campus Sophomore Science Research Institute (SSRI) and the Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) programs. UVI students also conducted research at the Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, Rutgers University, Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Maryland, the University of Iowa, Carnegie Mellon University, San Francisco State University, Mount Desert Island Biological Lab, Boston University, the University of South Carolina Medical School and other locations.

It was UVI President David Hall's first time at the Fall Research Symposium and he said, "The Fall Research Symposium was one of the most informative and inspirational events I have witnessed as president of the University of the Virgin Islands. The work of our students, their faculty mentors, and the faculty of the Division of Science and Math are shining examples of the intellectual power and scientific curiosity of this University."

Provost AI Hassan Musah was also impressed with the student presentations. "This is one of those rare opportunities to catch a glimpse of the future, for with these proceedings and events leading to it, the seeds of tomorrow's science and scientist is cultivated, nurtured and and mentored. It is indeed a privilege to be a witness to this," he said.

Science and Mathematics Division Dean Camille McKayle, who has been a driving force behind the symposium since it began.

"The research symposium is a reflection of student and faculty commitment to excellence at UVI. Working one on one with faculty, students are able to enhance their undergraduate education in a way that prepares them for careers or graduate study in the sciences," Dr. McKayle said.
Student research projects are supported by grants from many sources, including funding from the National Science Foundation's HBCU-UP program, the South East Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (SEAGEP), the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Scholars programs, VI-EPSCoR, the MARC and RISE programs of the National Institutes of Health, and by grants supporting their faculty mentors' scientific research. General support is also provided by UVI's Division of Science and Mathematics.

The winners will receive certificates at UVI's Spring Academic Awards Ceremony.

Additional information can be found at the Emerging Caribbean Scientists program web site, or via email at