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Seven Mount Seniors Present Research at ASBMB Conference

Katherine Stohlman Pieters, C'20

Mount seniors at ASBMB Conference

ASBMB staff photographed Jillian Berko, Naomi Leno, Victoria Tavernier and Nana Acheampong at a networking event and used the picture in the banner of its Student Chapter News publication,

Seven Mount St. Mary’s University seniors this spring presented their research at the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s (ASBMB) Discover BMB conference.

Seniors at ASBMB conferenceSeniors Nana Acheampong, Jillian Berko, Diamond Lewis, Valerie Delss, Naomi Leno, Shaheer Syed and Victoria Tavernier traveled to San Antonio, Texas, in March to spend three days meeting with and learning alongside students and faculty from fellow ASBMB chapter schools.

“This conference allowed me to get out of my comfort zone by networking with people from different parts of the country and receive valuable feedback that I can use for the rest of my career,” shared Acheampong, who presented her research on small organic molecules that could slow the progression of Huntington’s Disease. ASMBM awarded her a travel grant to attend and present at the conference. She will be starting a Ph.D. program in bioinformatics and computational biology at George Mason University after graduation.

Berko also won a travel award from the ASBMB, and shared research conducted in the laboratory of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sarah Krueger, Ph.D., C’17, on treatments for Huntington’s Disease.

Lewis, too, shared her research on Huntington’s Disease, in a presentation titled "Synthesis of Melamine's for Huntington's Disease Therapeutics.” After graduation, Lewis will conduct neurovascular research as a post-baccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health.

ASBMB Mount studentsDelss presented research she conducted alongside Associate Professor of Chemistry Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D., on targeting DNA repair complexes at damage sites. She will pursue a Ph.D. next fall in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

“Attending felt like a capstone to finish off my four years at the Mount. I have been doing research since my sophomore year, so being able to finally present what I have spent years working on was a great opportunity,” exclaimed Delss.

Leno shared her research on treatments of fungi that are harmful in agriculture, from the labs of Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics Christine McCauslin, Ph.D., and Professor of Biology and Science Department Chair Dana Ward, Ph.D., C’97.

Syed also researched under Lombardi and presented on the targeting of DNA repair complexes. Like Lewis, he will be joining the NIH as a post-baccalaureate fellow in the fall. He plans to pursue a graduate degree.

Tavernier will begin a Ph.D. program in chemical biology at Johns Hopkins University after graduation. At the conference, she presented research done in Lombardi’s lab, also on DNA repair complexes.

The Mount participants appreciated the conference’s networking opportunities. “The ASBMB conference was a lot of fun and a great experience to not only communicate your findings, but also engage with scientists and researchers from around the world,” Tavernier shared.

Lewis shared that she was able “to meet a variety of individuals from a diverse environment who also want to grow and make connections. Use this time to make strong bonds and be introduced to different fields, careers and opportunities that are available to you.”

Rita Anoh, C’23, now pursuing a doctorate in structural biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started the Mount’s ASBMB student chapter last year. Tavernier is the current president and is planning a service event at which chapter members will share their experiences as STEM students with local high school students through Project Lead the Way.

The SNSM and the NIH grant received by Lombardi’s laboratory funded the students’ travel. Next year’s Discover BMB conference will take place in Chicago. Students interested in attending or in joining the Mount’s ASBMB chapter are encouraged to reach out to Lombardi at p.m.lombardi@msmary.edu.

Katherine Stohlman Pieters, C'20