June 16, 2016 at 1:45pm
Dane Lisser

Biology students win prestigious research awards

Students and alumni from Millikin University's Biology Department received various accolades at the biennial Tri-Beta National Convention held this year at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., from June 2-4.

Millikin University was represented by five students at the convention; two of which are recent graduates: Elizabeth Wrobel '15, from Tinley Park, Ill., and Spencer Hudson '15, from Wilmington, Del. Because they won 1st Place at the 2015 Tri-Beta District Convention, Wrobel and Hudson each received a travel stipend from the Tri-Beta national office for the national convention which is held every other year. Hudson recently completed his first year of a Ph.D. program at Utah State University, and Wrobel completed her first year of a Ph.D. program at the University of Georgia.  

Millikin Tri-Beta Chapter

The convention featured 68 presentations across four divisions, with approximately 8-10 presentations during each session. Students from over 30 universities across the country presented their research.

Millikin Tri-Beta ChapterIn the ecology division for posters, Millikin University received two awards. Elizabeth Wrobel took home Millikin's first-ever 1st Place Award at a Tri-Beta National Convention for her work with diseases in songbirds and raptors. Kelsey Going, a senior from Butler, Ill., earned a 3rd Place Award for her work with thermal tolerance and physiology in invasive frogs.

"I was initially surprised but then very excited when it was announced that my poster took first place in the ecology division," Wrobel said. "I view these conferences as a way to learn how to share my research as well as make professional connections with other student researchers and professors. I was very pleased to have all the hard work I put into my Millikin research recognized."

In the cellular, organismal, and developmental division for posters, Sara Siegfried, a senior from Red Bud, Ill., and president of Millikin's Tri-Beta Chapter, received a 3rd Place Award for her work with cytotoxicity of essential oils delivered to breast cancer cells.

"My goal when attending conferences is to gain confidence by presenting to a wide array of audiences, and receive suggestions for my future work," Siegfried said. "After presenting at the national level, I feel increased confidence in my work due in part to the encouragement I received during my presentation."

Millikin Tri-Beta Chapter

Spencer Hudson provided a talk on his Indigo Bunting coloration and physiology research, while Lauren Ingram, a senior from Jacksonville, Ill., presented her poster research on the effects of a stress hormone blocker on learning and memory in mice.

Millikin's Iota Epsilon Tri-Beta chapter was established in 2011. Since 2012, Millikin has won six first place student presentation awards at annual district meetings, and 17 district student presentation awards overall. Millikin was also named Best Chapter in its district for 2016.

"Our chapter is highly 'decorated' despite its short history and my hope is that this success will encourage students to become more involved in the chapter, not only at conventions, but in other activities," Siegfried said. "Our chapter may be young, but as president, I am immensely proud of our success thus far and hope to see it continue for a very long time." 

Millikin Tri-Beta Chapter

Over five years, Millikin students have received four grants from Tri-Beta and published three papers in their peer-reviewed journal, BIOS. In addition, this is the second consecutive national convention where at least one Millikin student has won an award with Kendra Peterson '15 winning 2nd Place in Ecology in 2014.

Elizabeth Wrobel, who is currently enrolled in the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Georgia, says Millikin gave her the confidence to present her research at conferences.

"Presenting my Millikin research taught me how to prepare both poster and oral presentations on my work, effectively explain my research to those with no background knowledge in my field and handle difficult questions asked by judges," Wrobel said. "Now that I am a graduate student at the University of Georgia, I am completely confident that the skills I gained at Millikin will allow me to successfully share my graduate research at future meetings." 

Millikin Tri-Beta ChapterTri-Beta is a society for students, particularly undergraduates, dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study and extending boundaries of human knowledge through scientific research. Since its founding in 1922, more than 200,000 persons have been accepted into lifetime membership, and more than 670 chapters have been established throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. For more information on Tri-Beta, visit tri-beta.org.

Millikin Associate Professor of Biology and Tri-Beta Chapter Advisor Dr. Travis Wilcoxen noted, "A lot of the projects are multiyear and the complexity of the projects match some master's programs in reality. Our students work on their projects early and they present often. Our students use these opportunities to become better professionals because they learn to think through the scientific method."