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2007-08 Presidential Research Scholars Program awardees run gamut from art to astronomy

Five Austin Peay State University students have been chosen for the Presidential Research Scholars Program for 2007-08.
Five Austin Peay State University students have been chosen for the Presidential Research Scholars Program for 2007-08.

The awardees (in bold) and their faculty mentors are: Joseph Vazqez with Dr. Chad Brooks, assistant professor of biology; Ed Hadley and Dr. Sarah Lundin-Schiller, associate professor of biology; Amy Dexter and Dr. Matthew Jones, assistant professor of mathematics; Heather Lee and Barry Jones, assistant professor of art, and Professor of Art Cindy Marsh; and Melissa Butner and Dr. J Allyn Smith, assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

Working with Brooks, Vazquez of Derry, N.H., will evaluate the bacterial effects of melittin on Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the causative agent in Lyme diseasethe most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the U.S. The study will explore melittinan amino acid protein found in honeybee venomas a potential therapy for patients with Lyme disease by quantifying its bacterial effects on Bb using Bb-infected mouse animal models.

A Clarksville resident, Hadley will work on a project to measure the first step in the production of the receptor for the hormone, oxytocin. By using a technique, called the reserve transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (PT-PCR), Hadley will measure the amount of messenger RNA for the oxytocin receptor being produced by cells in vitro under various conditions. This will help in understanding how this endocrine receptor may be regulated in vivo.

Because of a scheduling conflict with another research opportunity at the University of Arizona, Amy Dexter of Cookeville declined participation in the 2007-08 Presidential Research Scholars Program. According to Jones, although she had to decline the program, just being selected is an honor. The goal of Dexter's project was to design and analyze new models for matching systems. It was mathematical, using differential equations and stochastic processes.

A Clarksville resident, Lee will explore the creation and use of computer-generated three-dimensional models to improve her observational skills and ability to produce realistic-looking art. By learning a variety of 3-D modeling software and creating a series of two-dimensional artworks, she plans to develop a workshop, with supporting resources, to share with her peers.

A physics major and astronomy minor, Butner, Joelton, will study “Variable Stars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Calibration Fields.” Her research should reveal several previously unknown variable stars. Of high importance is the discovery of pulsating variables used as distance indicators that can help map the structure of the Milky Way galaxy.

According to Dr. Allyn Smith, her faculty mentor, while finishing her freshman year at APSU, Butner was accepted into the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates for Summer 2007. As such, she will spend much of the summer in Tucson, Ariz., where she will work at the National Solar Observatory with Dr. Matt Penn, the telescope scientist for the McMath/Pierce Solar telescope on Kitt Peak.

For more information about the Presidential Research Scholarship Program, contact Dr. Rebecca Jones, assistant professor of chemistry, by telephone at (931) 221-7621 or by e-mail at jones@apsu.edu. -- Dennie B. Burke