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Tennessee Academy of Science provides ‘wonderful opportunity’ for Austin Peay faculty, staff

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Biology students Sarah Krueger, Sarah Zirkle, Trevor Walker and Jacob Lemon won awards at the annual meeting.

(Posted on Nov. 23, 2021)

Eighteen Austin Peay State University students presented research at the Tennessee Academy of Science’s annual meeting on Nov. 6 at Tennessee Technological University.

“The big focus of the academy is to support science in the state of Tennessee,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, chair of Austin Peay’s Department of Biology and this year’s president of the Tennessee Academy of Science (TAS). “And the annual conference is targeted at getting students to present.”

TAS encourages graduate and undergraduate students to present at the conference, but many faculty and staff from the state’s universities as well as scientists from outside academia present at the meeting.

“When our students go, it really is based upon the students having gotten involved in research with someone, typically in the College of STEM, maybe for research credit or maybe just for fun or for the experience,” Thompson said.

An opportunity to learn

The conference offers a friendly environment and good feedback, which is especially inviting for students who haven’t presented at a conference.

That includes APSU freshmen such as Emelia Beck, Avery Moser and Laina Skaggs. Each worked with an Austin Peay professor through the STEM Scholars program to present research posters at the TAS meeting.

“Neither I nor Avery had done anything of the sort, so it was definitely a learning experience,” said Beck, a freshman studying biochemistry. “Through presenting, I have learned that the STEM community is very welcoming to new researchers and their ideas.

“The TAS conference was a wonderful opportunity, and I would definitely do it again.”

Thompson doubts many institutions involve undergraduates early in their academic careers doing research and presenting at conferences.

“I think that is really special,” she said. “I would say what is really special at Austin Peay is that our classes are small enough that students are able to get to know faculty members and seek out those opportunities.

“I think it’s these things that really anchor students to an institution.”

Engaged in their research

Four Austin Peay students gave oral presentations, and 14 gave poster presentations, according to the meeting program. And the students did well.

APSU biology professor Dr. Catherine G. Haase’s graduate students – Sarah Krueger, Sarah Zirkle and Trevor Walker – swept the poster awards for the ecology and evolution section, for example. And Jacob Lemon, who is working with biology professor Dr. Manisha Gupta, won first place in the botany and cell and molecular biology oral presentation section.

“I think that Austin Peay, I always say, we not only show up, but we really put on a good show,” Thompson said. “Our students really do great in that kind of activity, and I think it really shows how the faculty prepare them … they know how to talk about their research and they’re engaged in their research.”

Conferences such as the TAS annual meeting allow students to share their work and get feedback from others in the field, she added. The conferences also allow students to see how their research fits into the greater body of science.

“I think sometimes when you’re working in the lab and you’re focused on your little project, that you may not think about how what you’re doing is going to contribute to that bigger body,” Thompson said. “It’s going to add to what we already know and is going to allow for others maybe to look at your research and get them thinking about a new avenue for their own research.”

Austin Peay’s participants

This year’s TAS annual meeting had 74 oral presentations and 91 poster presentations.

These are the Austin Peay students who participated: Jacob Lemon, Laina Skaggs, Yufenyuy Sevidzem Simo, Vincent Wriston, Avery Moser, Emelia Beck, Hannah Motes, Nicholas Desing, Jacob Hannah, Anna K. Sheets, Peyton D. Simpson, James D. Forsythe, Trevor G. Walker, Sarah C. Zirkle, Sarah K. Krueger, Killian Prue, Jarres Plummer and Zachary Givens.

The following Austin Peay professors also presented or mentored students who presented: Dr. Manisha Gupta, Dr. Chengxian Zhang, Dr. Ramanjit Sahi, Dr. J. Allyn Smith, Dr. Saeid Samadidana, Michael J. Wilson, Ellen C. Brown, Dr. Anuradha Liyana Pathiranage, Dr. Catherine G. Haase, Dr. Roman Holovchak, Dr. Andriy Kovalski and Dr. Eugenii U. Donev.

To read more about the student and professors’ research, visit the Tennessee Academy of Science program page.

TAS and the annual meeting also are an inviting experience for Austin Peay faculty and staff, and several are active members.

In addition to Thompson, Drs. Marcia Schilling, Justin Oelgoetz, Gilbert Pitts, Theresa Barke and J. Allyn Smith are on the TAS executive committee. And Dr. Fred Matthews, Dr. Jeffrey Lebkuecher, Cooper Breeden, Matthew Anderson, Dr. Daniel Mayo and Dr. Philip Short had active roles in the meeting this year.

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