Team of nurses to aid Lyon’s COVID-19 response

A team of intensive care unit (ICU) nurses are assisting Lyon College with its COVID-19 response this school year.

Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Patrick Mulick announced on Aug. 17 that nurses Lauren Pickle, RN, Melonie Koch, RN, and Cassie Mohlke, BSN, will be covering the Office of Health and Wellness.

Mulick said the nurses will be available for student needs, will help with the College’s COVID testing procedures, will care for any quarantined students and will work with Lyon’s COVID Coordinator Shawn Tackett. Additionally, they will work closely with the medical staff at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) North Central Clinic in Batesville for students who need to be seen by a physician.

Pickle said the team of nurses will rotate their call days for Lyon and its students.

“We all work in the ICU full-time still, so we based our on-call days off of our schedules,” she said.

The nurses can be contacted at health@lyon.edu or (870)307-7425. They are available by phone 24/7 at (870) 205-0259 for any medical needs.

Pickle graduated from the University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville in December 2018 and previously worked as a bariatric medical-surgical nurse at Northeast Arkansas Baptist Memorial Hospital. She transferred to the White River Medical Center (WRMC) in December 2019 after taking maternity leave so she could be closer to home and work in the ICU.

She spent a lot of time in and out of school undecided on any career until she worked as a certified nursing assistant at WRMC for about four years.

“I would have never considered nursing until doing that,” Pickle said. “It’s one of the most rewarding jobs, and it’s never boring.”

She has been part of the ICU COVID team at WRMC since the pandemic began.

“As far as training with this pandemic, it’s a day-to-day basis,” Pickle said. “We are informed on the most up-to-date policies at work almost daily.”

She continued, “I also spend a lot of time following information and reading articles and studies in my own time. That’s just part of being a nurse or a healthcare professional in general. There is constant education and information made available daily.” 

Koch received her licensed practical nurse (LPN) degree in 1994 at Ozarka College in Melbourne, Ark. She worked at the Cave City Nursing Home for three years before going to work at WRMC. She has since worked on the medical-surgical floor at the hospital, at Cave City Medical Clinic and at the Arkansas Health Education Center in Mountain View.

She returned to Ozarka in 2013 to receive her registered nurse (RN) degree and began working in the ICU at WRMC.

“I always liked helping people, and nursing seemed to be a career that would always allow me to do that,” Koch said. “I love the challenges and opportunities that nursing has.”

Mohlke graduated from Arkansas State University with a bachelor’s of nursing in 2019 and began working in the ICU at WRMC. She is also trained in hemodialysis and telemetry.

“I have been taking care of COVID-positive patients since it occurred in our area due to my ability to take care of ventilator-dependent patients,” she said, “and my knowledge of using different medications to treat them.”

Mohlke continued, “It has not been an easy five to six months, but I believe this is what God has called me to do.”

Koch said the team is looking forward to serving at Lyon College.

“I grew up in Newark, and I recently bought a home near Batesville with my husband, who I married in May,” Mohlke said.

She continued, “I’m excited to plant roots where I was raised and to take care of my community.”

Pickle said the most important thing to remember is that everyone is affected by the pandemic.

“It’s a real thing and it can be scary, but as ICU nurses we are seeing the worst of it and we want to do our part to keep everyone safe before they have to see us in the hospital.”

She continued, “We want to do our best to give students and parents peace of mind, knowing if anything happens with them medically that they are in capable hands.”

Lyon College freshman researches potential lung cancer treatments

A Lyon freshman spent her spring and summer developing small molecules in an organic chemistry research laboratory that could one day be used to treat lung cancer. 

Nikkolette Perkins, of Brookland, Ark., researched 1,4-naphthoquinone, an organic compound with significant biological activities, with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Irosha Nawarathne. These biological activities include anticancer, antimicrobial, antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Woman wears safety gear in a laboratory
Nikkolette Perkins

Perkins would develop chemical methodologies to make novel modified naphthoquinones by adding groups to the core structure to make effective lung cancer treatments. She used organic reactions, such as Michael addition and click reaction, and organic techniques and instrumentation like analytical and preparative scale thin layer chromatography (TLC), flash column chromatography, solvent extraction, UV-Vis spectroscopy, Infra-Red spectroscopy and mass spectrometry during those developments. 

While Perkins previously did research at Arkansas State University Biosciences Institute, this was her first undergraduate research experience.

“When I was in high school, I did not quite understand the science I was doing,” she said, “but here, with my undergraduate classes that I have taken, I understand a lot more of what I am doing.”

That knowledge made the experience more fun for her.

“I am able to learn more about chemistry from what I am doing in the lab, and it makes me feel very prepared for my future classes at Lyon.”

Perkins continued, “I am also doing science I enjoy more than I did in high school, which makes it more fun.”

Her courses at Lyon prepared her for some of the lab techniques she used this summer. Now a rising sophomore, she believes her lab experience will help her in future courses.

“Some of the things I have done, I already knew the basics from some of my general chemistry classes,” Perkins said. “I think understanding the applications of what I have done this summer will really help me understand the in-class material when I take Organic Chemistry.”

She spent most of the summer developing molecules with azido or alkyne groups. One of her favorite moments from her summer research was when she successfully combined two different modified naphthoquinones, which contained alkyne and azido reactive groups she developed in the lab, into a new hybrid product by using click chemistry. 

“It ended up working! This new click product will hopefully help in fighting against lung cancer.” 

Lung cancer remains the most common cancer worldwide, in the United States, and in Arkansas. According to the American Cancer Society and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, more people die as a result of lung cancer each year than from breast, colorectal and prostate cancer combined.

The molecules Perkins helped develop are being tested for their anticancer and antimicrobial activities at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where Lyon has research collaborations.

She plans to continue doing undergraduate research this semester. Her goal is to eventually obtain her Ph.D. in chemistry.

“I am unsure what I quite want to do for my future, but I think I might want to do research after how much I enjoyed researching this summer.”

Ghoshal to lead new data science program at Lyon College

A new faculty member is helping Lyon College develop its data science program.

Dr. Torumoy Ghoshal started teaching at Lyon this fall as the new Visiting Assistant Professor of Data Science. He is currently teaching Introduction to Programming in Java, Operating Systems and Introduction to Programming in Python.

Man wearing suit
Dr. Torumoy Ghoshal

“In the first semester, I will be focusing on understanding the existing courses at Lyon and developing data science courses accordingly for the upcoming semester.”

Being able to create and foster data science courses was one of the main things that drew Ghoshal to Lyon.

“Data science is a developing field,” he said. “This opportunity allows me to give a structure to my experience and output them in the form of courses that students will hopefully find beneficial.”

Lyon approved the addition of a data science major in April 2020, making it the first private institution in Arkansas to offer this path. The program began in fall 2020.

The major is available in addition to the computer science major. Data science focuses on algorithms and how they apply to data, combining mathematics and computing. The program lays out the essential tools for data analytics and allows students to pursue one of three tracks: science, business and economics or social sciences/humanities/fine arts.

Ghoshal has completed a Ph.D. in engineering science, with an emphasis in computer science, from the University of Mississippi. His dissertation involved machine learning and data science. He previously taught for about two and a half years at the University of Mississippi as a graduate instructor.

One of his goals at Lyon is to make students more interested in core computer science concepts, machine learning and data science after taking his courses.

“I enjoy that process,” Ghoshal said. “Besides, my own understanding becomes deeper when I teach.”

Lyon partners with COVID Health Project for campus testing

Lyon College is partnering with the COVID Health Project (CHP) for campus testing this fall.

CHP, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is a partnership of scientists, healthcare professionals, industry advisors and independent lab owners. The firm will provide turnkey coronavirus testing to help the college resume day-to-day operations.

“One of our most critical requirements is testing — ensuring capacity and rapid results — so that everyone feels safe coming back to campus,” said President Joey King. “Thanks to CHP, we are now COVID ready.” 

Lyon’s partnership was covered by Arkansas Business and on the COVID Health Project’s website.

Lyon College is pilot for Austin-based tech company

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lyon College was the first to bring on new support services from an Austin-based technology services provider that serves over 400 higher education institutions across the country.

Apogee, with clients ranging from Johns Hopkins University to Arizona State University, partnered with Lyon to improve its technical infrastructure and remote-learning capacity. 

Specifically, Lyon adopted Apogee’s desktop, classroom, and server support, which enables blended learning opportunities for students to connect to live lectures remotely and view recorded lecture material online.

The partnership is mutually beneficial: using Apogee allows Lyon personnel more time to focus on strategic projects. An estimated 15-20% of departmental time has been saved, and technical capacity has dramatically increased.

“With Apogee, Lyon now has the capacity to remotely teach courses that are comparable to our in-person courses,” said Director of Institutional Research Andrew English. “It’s also allowed us to rebuild 95% or our server core.” 

An upgraded server core means faster services, backup, and better security, which will all be imperative for remote learning practices. 

“Apogee Managed Campus has empowered us to more effectively carry out our mission of fostering critical, creative thought and fulfilling personal and professional lives. It does this by foundationally providing the digital resources we are increasingly using to become a 21st century liberal arts college of the first order,” said Lyon College President W. Joseph King.

Lyon joins ARE-ON, secures additional research opportunities for students

Lyon College has joined the Arkansas Research Education Optical Network (ARE-ON), providing access to national research networks and allowing the College to collaborate with other higher education institutions. 

ARE-ON is a consortium of all public degree-granting institutions in Arkansas and other selected higher education organizations.

Lyon’s Director of Information Services Jeremiah Cherwien said Lyon is the first private college in Arkansas to join. Apogee, Lyon’s network services provider, will manage the connection for Lyon.

By being part of ARE-ON, the College will be able to share data, research and resources with other colleges and universities across the state. Cherwien said these connections mean big opportunities for Lyon’s academic programs.

“For example, the University of Arkansas in Little Rock shares data sets with other schools and transfers those quickly with ARE-ON. I’m hoping we can use that for our data science program.”

ARE-ON will also give them access to Internet2, a national research network that allows colleges to communicate online without commercial traffic, like ads.

ARE-ON provides a high-speed fiber optic backbone network throughout the state with 1Gb, 10Gb, and 100Gb Ethernet connections to its members, affiliates, national research and education networks, regional optical networks, and commercial service providers. The network consists of approximately 2,200 miles of long-haul fiber optic cable and about 85 miles of metro fiber in twenty-four cities and four neighboring states. 

ARE-ON’s extensive reach allows institutions to connect, collaborate, and innovate within the organization’s core agendas: education, telemedicine, research, and emergency preparedness.

Cherwien said this network will provide 10 times the bandwidth Lyon currently has, which will help the College facilitate online instruction this fall.

“Faculty and students might notice that things download quicker and transferring files from those other universities will be faster.”

He said Lyon plans to use ARE-ON in the future to develop a disaster recovery site, a place to have the College’s servers running somewhere outside of Batesville.

“That way, if something happens here, we can keep working,” Cherwien said.

ARE-ON completed a site survey in July, and Lyon is expected to be connected to the network this fall.

Lyon alum researches new treatment options for tuberculosis

Daniel Armstrong, ’20, researched new treatment options for tuberculosis (TB) at Lyon College this summer.

Armstrong worked with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Irosha Nawarathne on developing new antibiotics to treat multi-drug resistant TB.

“This TB strain can be deadly, so new treatment options are always very useful,” Armstrong said.

He used the drug rifamycin, a well-known TB treatment and a broad-spectrum antibiotic, as a precursor to develop new rifamycin derivatives. Using a reaction called an “enabling reaction,” he incorporated an azide group to the complex rifamycin S, something which has not been done before in scientific literature.

“I primarily studied ‘click chemistry of rifamycins,’ which is a type of reaction that occurs between two specific chemical groups: alkynes and azides,” Armstrong said.

After modifying rifamycin so that it had an azide functional group on it, he added different alkyne molecules to it in order to create the new rifamycin derivatives. During the project, he would frequently run reactions and later purify the products using chromatography, a laboratory technique for the separation of a mixture.

He also used techniques like infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to identify products.

“I think the coolest moment for me was when I realized that the antibiotics I made had never been made before,” Armstrong said.

Nawarathne said the novel rifamycins developed by Armstrong are currently being tested by other researchers for their antimicrobial and anticancer activities.

“It’s exciting to think that some day the drugs made in Dr. Irosha’s lab could possibly help treat TB,” Armstrong said.

He believes this research experience will help him when he enters the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy this fall.

“This research gave me insight into the drug discovery process,” Armstrong said. “So much work goes into the process of developing just one drug molecule, and I think appreciation for that is important.” 

Lyon College student researches amphibians to understand human diseases

Junior Hannah Wu, of Cabot, is expanding her research experience in Lyon College’s lab this summer.

She is working with Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones to study Ambystoma mexicanum, a type of salamander known as the Mexican axolotl. 

Wu and Jones are using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qpcr) and immunostaining to identify osmoregulatory proteins and the expression and location of those proteins in the aquatic salamanders. Osmoregulation is the process of maintaining salt and water balance across membranes within an organism’s body.

“Gaining more knowledge about which proteins are involved in osmoregulation will help us be one step closer to understanding human diseases that involve water and ion uptake,” Wu said.

She said Lyon is currently raising over 100 axolotls in the lab.

“There is definitely a lot of work that goes into this,” Wu said. “Processes like mRNA extraction, DNA amplification and purification and histology take a lot of concentration and patience.”

She continued, “However, when the results show that I did a process correctly, it makes me feel like all the hard work and frustration is worth it!”

This is Wu’s second summer conducting research. During the summer of her freshman year, she conducted research in Bethesda, Md., with Dr. D. Scott Merrell, ’92, at the Uniformed Services University.

A double major in biology and psychology, Wu said many of her courses at Lyon, such as Principles of Biology II and Cell Biology, have prepared her for her research experiences by enhancing her understanding of DNA, proteins and other cellular components.

“You don’t realize how much you know until you actually put it to use!”

Courses like Organic Chemistry have helped her identify many of the chemicals being used in the labs.

“Performing microbiology research allows me to integrate the many skills and knowledge I have learned,” she said. “The classes at Lyon are rigorous, but if you take the time to learn the information that is being provided to you, you will walk away with knowledge that you will be able to use wherever you go.”

Wu hopes this research experience will expand her knowledge of axolotls and the different types of proteins that are involved in their ability to osmoregulate.

“On a larger spectrum, I wish to walk away with the ability to think critically and attain the ability to come up with research questions and how to answer those questions.”

She plans to continue doing research at Lyon for the next two years and attend medical school after graduating.

Wu’s favorite part of research is the opportunity to learn new skills and information on a daily basis.

“Knowing that the work I am doing now will impact the future and help solve unanswered questions is so invigorating,” Wu said. 

She concluded, “I am honored that Dr. Jones provided me this opportunity to change the world. I know I play a very small part in the science community, but I hope that my part will be advantageous.”

Lyon students research poultry houses’ impact on local watersheds

Two Lyon College students are working in both the laboratory and the field to research the impact of poultry houses on local watersheds this summer.

Seniors Allison Mundy and Olivia Echols are researching the water quality in the Eleven Point and Black River watersheds. Poultry houses cause phosphorus and nitrogen runoffs, which can create harmful algae blooms in the water. 

Two female students pose for a photo while holding equipment for measuring water quality
Allison Mundy (left) and Olivia Echols are conducting field research on the water quality of the Eleven Point and Black River watersheds.

Mundy is working under Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Allyn Dodd, and Echols is splitting her time with Dodd and Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones.

They are studying the nutrients present in local streams to make sure they are at acceptable levels. If the streams are over-nutriated, then that is a sign that poultry house runoff is in the water.

“We’re also checking to see how much algae is growing in the streams,” Mundy said. “If there’s too much algae, the fish cannot survive because it depletes the oxygen in the water.”

She continued, “I’m checking the macroinvertebrates community. Basically, there are some bugs in the water that cannot live in pollution at all, so I check to see if any of those bugs are around and count them.”

Echols said she is studying the Ozark crawfish population to see how the pollution impacts the physiology of crawfish.

“We’re looking at how the nutrients have affected the osmoregulation of the crawfish,” Echols said. “Our main purpose right now is to try to sequence the genes involved in osmoregulation.”

Mundy said their work is part of Dodd’s research project in collaboration with Jones and Erik Pollock of the University of Arkansas, which was funded through a grant from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

“We are just gathering information to share with the USGS so they can publish the research on their website and get it to whoever needs it.”

She said the USGS is worried about this region of Arkansas because of the growing number of poultry houses in the area.

“They’re checking to make sure everything is okay,” Mundy said, “and that people are within their regulations.”

Mundy and other students previously presented some of their research at the 2020 Posters at the Capitol event in February.

“I have a few business cards from a few legislators in the area,” Mundy said. “They were asking if we could send them our results when we’re finished.”

She continued, “Our research has a direct impact on the policies people are making. It’s really cool to know that my science gets to be reviewed at that level.”

Echols and Mundy are excited to be working on their first undergraduate research project and to apply what they have learned in their biology courses in the field.

“I learned about crawfish in Bio 110,” Echols said, “so I’m getting to apply a bunch of dissection and anatomy of crawfish from that course.”

Mundy said she is using what she learned in her Biological Statistics course to run her own statistics on this project.

“It’s great to be able to learn a different side of biology,” Echols said. “I’ve worked with cells and things like that , but not necessarily with bugs and water chemistry.”

She concluded, “It’s nice to be able to see the background of the impact poultry houses can have on ecology.”

“I like this research because it’s beyond the textbook,” Mundy said. “You get to contextualize how science is done, and you get to know it a lot better than you would just reading from a book.”