April 30, 2019
By Whitney Tarpy
OXFORD, Miss. – Numerous graduate students in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences within the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy earned awards for their presentations at the UM Neuroscience Research Showcase in April and the Mississippi Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting in February.
Erik Hodges, a graduate student from Norman, Oklahoma, was honored at the Neuroscience Showcase. Student award winners at the MAS meeting included Stephanie Burr of Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Amelia Clayshulte of Las Cruces, New Mexico; Mallory Harmon of Meridian, Mississippi; and Alaa Qrareya of Palestine.
Hodges was awarded for his outstanding graduate presentation at the university’s Neuroscience Showcase. Hodges works in the lab of Nicole Ashpole, assistant professor of pharmacology, where he researches how brain function and performance change as people age. Hodges’ research specifically focuses on the effects of cannabinoids on circadian rhythms and the aging brain.
His ultimate goal is to better understand how aging influences the onset of disease by learning which aspects of aging can be slowed using therapeutics.
“I am thrilled that my work was recognized among the many talented researchers who presented at the showcase,” Hodges said. “Ole Miss is home to a substantial amount of neuroscience research, and it was great to see much of this work presented during the Brain Awareness Week events.”
Burr, a second-year Ph.D. student, focused on the correlation between diabetes and cardiovascular disease to gain a better understanding of how a specific cell signaling pathway contributes to diabetic heart failure. Burr credited the biomolecular sciences department’s resources and faculty for allowing her to further her research goals.
“The faculty in the department are more than willing to help provide guidance and share their knowledge,” Burr said. “Having a department made up of intelligent scientists with a large knowledge base has been extremely helpful in my growth as a researcher, and has helped to further develop my project.”
Clayshulte placed third in the graduate student presentation for her research on how environment impacts sponges. Harmon, a senior biology major who works in the lab of associate professor of pharmacology Jamie Stewart, was third in the undergraduate portion, with her research on changes in cardiac fibroblast migration in diabetic conditions.
Qrareya finished second overall for her poster presentation. The pharmacology graduate student works in the lab of Jason Paris, assistant professor of pharmacology, investigating the neuroendocrine mechanisms that may cause females to be more vulnerable to opioid abuse.
The department was also well-represented at the MAS meeting. A large contingent of undergraduate and graduate students’ presentations highlighted the department’s work, along with a graduate recruiting booth. Stewart serves as a faculty officer for the society, while Kristie Willett, biomolecular sciences chair and professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology, was an invited speaker.