UAMS Students Shine in Student Research Day Presentations

By Nathan Tidwell

A concurrent Student Research Day was held at the Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville for the second consecutive year.

Emily Bowman, Stephanie Gardner

The College of Medicine’s Emily Bowman with UAMS provost, chief academic officer and chief strategy officer Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D.Image by Bryan Clifton

In addition to the Mello presentation, the March 5 event, held at the I. Dodd Wilson Education Building, consisted of two research project presentation poster sessions, the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and awards in various categories. More than 250 posters were submitted, with all five colleges and the Graduate School represented between the two participating campuses.

Mello, a distinguished professor, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, and co-director of the RNA Therapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, presented “RNAi: Ancient Mechanism, New Medicines.”

The McGehee Distinguished Lectureship was created in 2011 from a gift by the late Carl D. and Jeannette Purnell of Pine Bluff.

“One of the highlights of my career has been to introduce speakers for this lecture,” said McGehee, a distinguished professor in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology and dean emeritus of the Graduate School. “I’m really glad that Dr. Mello came, and we’re excited to hear him.”

Craig Mello

Nobel Prize winner Craig Mello, Ph.D., speaks to the audience.Image by Bryan Clifton

Mello and Andrew Fire, Ph.D., were awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of RNA interference (RNAi), which allows for the suppression of specific genes in determining which ones contribute to disease.

Mello’s presentation discussed the guiding principles of RNAi interference and controlling gene expression.

“It’s like a guided search to find and destroy information in cells,” Mello said. “It’s relevant to all biology. We can use it in drugs; we can use it research. We keep studying because we still don’t know much about it.”

The poster sessions occurred in the morning, with the 3MT competition and awards coming after Mello’s lecture.

“I enjoy being invited to an event like this,” Mello said. “It’s a special day for everyone here. It’s interesting seeing the various types of research in one setting.”

Judging the 3MT Finals were Mello; Melanie MacNicol, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Medicine Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences; and Kristen Sterba, Ph.D., associate provost for students and administration and director for Institutional Research, Policy, and Accreditation.

3MT Finalists

The finalists of the 3MT competition.Image by Nathan Tidwell

The Graduate School’s Reham Sewilam won the 3MT Finals for her presentation, “Breaking Barriers: Targeting DNA Damage Tolerance for Enhanced Therapeutics in Glioblastoma Multiforme.”

Laura Osborn, also of the Graduate School, was the runner-up.

“I can’t believe it,” said Sewilam, who also won the 3MT Finals People’s Choice Award voted on by those in attendance. “It’s my first time being a finalist. I’m thankful that people voted for me and understood my project.”

Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., vice chancellor for Research and Innovation and professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, expressed her appreciation for the event.

“Student Research Day is a great way to highlight the talents of our students and postdoctorate fellows,” Ho said. “Professors, students and support staff all make the day a tremendous success.”

Jordan Furr of the College of Health Professions and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville presented a poster on data related to BMI composition of males in UAMS’ Head Start programs.

SRD Fayetteville

The Northwest Regional Campus holds Student Research Day for the second consecutive year.Image by David Wise

“We found there was a lower percentage of obesity in children who were from single-parent homes,” Furr said.

Brittany Montgomery, a second-year medical student at UAMS whose undergraduate work was at Jackson State University in Mississippi, presented a poster on the cost of living for potential radiologists.

“It’s to help students determine where they might want to start their radiology residency,” said Montgomery. “We found that the Midwest had the best cost of living.”

Samuel Schach’s poster was about quality of life in breast cancer survivors.

“We had a 36-question survey about mental and physical health with Arkansas women,” said Schach, a Fayetteville native who graduated from the University of Virginia and is a second-year student in the College of Medicine. “We found that our median score for mental and physical health was above the national average.”

The day is also an opportunity for postdoctorate fellows like Henry Palfrey, Ph.D., to present their research.

“I’m in a drug discovery lab where we study kidneys,” said Palfrey, who is in the College of Pharmacy and completed his undergraduate work at the University of New Orleans. “We’re looking at the effects of how a drug performs before and after a kidney problem develops.”

SRD attendees.

More than 250 posters were submitted for Student Research Day.Image by Bryan Clifton

For faculty like Wendy Nembhard, Ph.D., it’s pleasing seeing students present their work.

“It’s a great opportunity for students who have not been to a scientific meeting to get practice presenting,” said Nembhard, a professor and chair of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health. “It’s also helpful for faculty to see that we’re all doing similar types of research.”

Daniel Voth, Ph.D., senior associate vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine, commented on the growth of Student Research Day.

“Student Research Day is a fantastic event,” said Voth. “It’s huge this year, a lot bigger than in the past. We’re so proud of our students — they do a great job.”

Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research


  • First place ($100 prize) — Reham Sewilam (Graduate School)
  • Runner-up ($50 prize) — Aric Anloague (Graduate School), Sydnye Shuttleworth (College of Medicine)

Postdoctorate fellows

  • First place ($100 prize) — Japneet Kaur (COM)

Eddie Reed Science Award

  • First place ($100 prize) — Bria Hampton (Graduate School)

Bhuvan Awards for Excellence in Biochemistry Graduate Research

  • First place ($750 prize) — Haven Griffin (Graduate School)
  • Second place ($500 prize) — Mason McCrury (Graduate School)
  • Third place ($250 prize) — Kennith Swafford (Graduate School)

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Awards

  • First place — Reham Sewilam (Graduate School)
  • Runner-up — Laura Osborn (Graduate School)
  • People’s Choice — Reham Sewilam (Graduate School)

Poster Awards


  • Dinesh Bhattarai (COM)


  • First place — Lucy Fry (Graduate School)
  • Second place — Reham Sewilam (Graduate School)
  • Third place — Aric Anloague (Graduate School)


  • First place — Sydnye Shuttleworth (COM)
  • Second place — Brianna Long (COM)
  • Third place — Davin Means (COM, Northwest Regional Campus)


  • First place — Claire Keisling (COM)
  • Second place — Rami Shahror (COM)
  • Third place — Japneet Kaur (COM)
Robert Eoff, Bria Hampton

Bria Hampton, winner of the Eddie Reed Science Award, shows her poster to Robert Eoff, Ph.D.Image by Nathan Tidwell