Student researchers traded in their Halloween costumes for lab coats when they travelled to San Francisco during the last weekend of the spooky season. Thirteen members of the Sigma Xi science research society travelled to the west coast Oct. 26-28 to participate in the 2018 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference.
Those in attendance prepared their projects months prior to the conference. Depending on the subject of the project, they were placed a certain category: Agricultural, Soil and Natural Resources; Cell Biology and Biochemistry; Engineering; Environmental Science; Human Behavioral and Social Science; Microbiology and Molecular Biology; Chemistry and Physiology and Immunology. At the competition, a panel of two judges evaluated a student’s research and scored the experiment out of a total 52 points. The panel later recognized the first place winner from each category at a final awards ceremony.
Heritage came back to the east coast with first places in five of the eight categories. In addition to recognition on a national scale, first place winners earned a $150 certificate, an official Sigma Xi medal, induction into the national research honor society and a free one-year membership, as well a one-year subscription to Science Magazine.
Junior Valentina Ortega took home first place in the Physiology and Immunology category with her project titled “The Molecular Asthmatic Effects of Pichia Kudriavzevii Yeast on A549 Alveolar Epithelial Cells.” In her experiment, Ortega tested the cellular effects of the yeast’s secretions on epithelial lung cells to potentially identify components in the secretion that were responsible for causing chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Ortega came up with this topic in April of her freshman year and began work that summer. She spent the next nine months going about her project and finished it in December of her sophomore year.
By the end of her project, Ortega determined that the secretion of the yeast cells increased mucin secretion and an increase in cell deaths, as well as lead to a lower viability of cells.
“It makes me really happy that I was able to share my hard work and research with talented professors that are just as passionate about science as me,” Ortega said, “especially since they thought my project was worthy of the award.”
List of winners:
Sophomore Angelin Mathew – 1st place, Microbiology
Junior Rajat Ramesh – 1st place, Environmental Science
Junior Valentina Ortega – 1st place, Physiology and Immunology
Senior Satya Alagarsamy – 1st place, Chemistry
Senior Ephraim Oyetunji – 1st place, Behavioral Science