Today@Sam Article

Undergraduates To Present Research Internationally

May 13, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney


Two Sam Houston State University seniors, Ibeth Caceres and Kendra Ireland will present their independent research in front of an international audience at the Second World Congress On Undergraduate Research at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, May 23-25.

Caceres and Ireland were granted this incredible opportunity thanks to the funding and support of SHSU’s Center for Enhancing Undergraduate Research Experiences and Creative Activities (EURECA), which works to cultivate and develop faculty-mentored, discipline-specific inquiry among undergraduate students.

Caceres partnered with Biology faculty and EURECA director, Madhusudan Choudhary and Ireland with Chemistry faculty Donovan Haines, to conduct their research.

KI1“Both are outstanding Bearkats who represent the best of Sam Houston State’s values,” Haines said. “They have worked incredibly hard in some of the most difficult subjects on campus to learn what they need to know in order to later apply that knowledge to solving problems for society in the fields of science and medicine.”

The aim of the conference is to bring together the world’s best undergraduate research and to work on some of the most significant challenges that the global community is facing today. Both SHSU students will present their projects covering the theme of global health, which emphasizes health equality and the concerns that transcend national borders.

Ireland’s research focuses on applying a technique of photocaging to specific enzymes and exploring the possible medical applicability of the technique.

“I decided early on that I wanted to work in the lab of Dr. Donovan Haines, who is primarily an enzymologist specializing in cytochrome P450 enzymes,” Ireland said. “I was and still am fascinated by enzymes; enzymes are proteins that catalyze the chemical reactions within our bodies to generate energy and keep us alive. Enzymes are central to cellular processes and highly involved in disease, so I was naturally drawn to Dr. Haine’s research.”

JAMP4Caceres’ presentation is titled, “The effects of mercury contamination on microbiome structure-function in a Neotropical river: implications on aquatic ecosystem sustainability and global human health.” Her research involved examining the impact of gold-mining activities on the physiochemical and habitat characteristics of the water, and microbiome of the Mazaruni River in Guyana, South America.

For both Ireland and Caceres, getting involved in research at the undergraduate level has greatly enhanced their time at SHSU, and influenced their future careers.

“Participating in undergraduate research has completely changed my life. I fell in love with the process very quickly and realized that I wanted this to be my career,” Ireland said. “I have gained research skills and learned many valuable techniques as a result of my time within the lab. Most importantly, research reinforced my decision to attend graduate school, where I can expand my repertoire of research skills and further my knowledge of chemistry.”

Ireland will be attending Emory University in the fall to pursue her Ph.D. in chemistry, and then she plans to complete a post-doctorate in order to enter the industry as a research scientist. 

Caceres will attend Baylor College of Medicine this July to earn her medical degree. She plans to practice medicine in rural areas and the underserved populations.

“Prior to this research, I was unfamiliar with the impact of gold-mining activities on the health of those people residing in developing countries, such as Guyana,” Caceres said. “This research has made me take an interest in global human health and possibly pursue opportunities tied to learning more about global human health in medical school.”

The pair are confident that those curious about getting involved in undergraduate research, should take the plunge. 

“I would tell other undergraduates to go for it,” Ireland said. “Find a professor whose research you are interested in and talk to them about joining the group. It takes time to gain the necessary background information and become independent in the lab. Your research advisor is there to guide and support you.”

They also hope that their participation in an international research conference will set a precedent for future undergraduate students.

“Conferences are so important in the research process because they bring awareness to the topic, facilitate networking and invite collaboration,” Ireland said. “I am happy that people from all over the world will get a glimpse of the great research being conducted at SHSU.” 

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