By: Sherry Di Bari
Kayla Scott, a student at Piedmont Virginia Community College, overcame her fears by immersing herself in a fruit fly project.
“I don’t like bugs at all,” she said. “This research took me out of my comfort zone.”
Scott, who has studied the adaptation of fruit flies to temperature changes, participated in the 13th Annual Virginia-North Carolina Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium held virtually at Old Dominion University on April 1st.
This is the first time ODU has hosted the event since joining the Alliance in 2017. Each year, the twelve partner institutions host the symposium on a rotating basis, alternating between member schools in Virginia and North Carolina.
The Virginia-North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Engagement (LSAMP) is a National Science Foundation-funded project founded in 2007 with the goal of diversifying the STEM workforce and “increasing the number of ‘underrepresented minority students earning a bachelor’s degree and enrolling in graduation school.’
Partner institutions include community colleges, HBCUs and major state universities as well as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia.
During the half-day event, student Alliance participants presented their research for five minutes, followed by a five-minute question and answer session.
This year’s research included studies on menthol flavor and nicotine addiction, the effect of antioxidants on RT4 cells, and the impact of antioxidants on apoptosis, cell death.
ODU student Amadu Koroma gave a presentation on “The Summit”, a successful minority STEM mentoring group at the University.
“This symposium is a great example of how we can support minority students in STEM and invest in diversifying the STEM workforce of the future,” said Khan Iftekharrudin, Acting Dean of Batten College. of Engineering and Technology.
Stacie Ringleb, a professor in ODU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives for the College of Engineering, was the keynote speaker for the event.
Ringleb, whose work focuses on biomechanics, rehabilitation and kinematics, spoke about her personal journey as a student and professional.
She stressed the importance of “finding your people”, whether they are professors, colleagues or peers. “It’s really important to find people who will weather the storm with you,” she said.
Breakout sessions for students included panels on professional development, graduate studies, and industry. Another session on microaggressions was organized for faculty and staff.
“We appreciate Dr. Ringleb’s participation in this event and all the hard work that Dr. Landaeta and his team have put in to make it such a success,” said Iftekharrudin.
Austin Agho, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Old Dominion University, who is also a member of the VA-NC Alliance Board of Directors, delivered the closing address.
After thanking the Alliance and the symposium coordinators, Agho remarked that he did not envy the judges. “It’s not easy to judge when you have students who have worked so hard and done such amazing work,” he said.
He spoke of the challenges faced in academia to have a diverse faculty and thanked the Alliance for helping to increase the number of minority students entering STEM fields.
“It’s a win-win situation for all of us,” he said.
There are over forty LSAMP programs, named after Louis Stokes, the first African-American congressman from Ohio, across the United States.
Participating institutions offer internships, peer/faculty mentorship, summer bridge programs, tutoring, workshops, and paid summer research experiences.
At ODU, LSAMP projects include the Early Engineering Experience (E3), a three-day program for underrepresented high school students in the Hampton Roads area.
The Alliance includes 11 participating colleges and an observatory:
Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina
Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina
George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia
Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina
National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, VA
Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia
Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, Virginia
St. Augustine University in Raleigh, North Carolina
Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia
University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia