Dr. David Bebbington discusses evangelical history, trajectory in Birkett Williams lecture at Ouachita

Dr. David W. Bebbington spoke at Ouachita Baptist University on Oct. 7 as part of the university’s Birkett Williams Lecture Series. A world-renowned scholar on evangelicalism, Bebbington focused his lecture on the history of evangelicalism and its relevancy to the modern Christian.

Dr. Bebbington began by talking about evangelical revivals, America’s First Great Awakening and England’s Evangelical Revival, which took place in the 18th century, and mentioning the impact of leaders like John Wesley and George Whitfield.

“These people led major movements that transformed the Christian sea on both sides of the Atlantic, for it was a protestant, trans-Atlantic phenomenon in America, as well as in Britain, leaving an incredible mark on both countries over the long term,” he said.

Bebbington, who has authored more than 20 books pertaining to the topic of evangelicalism, proceeded to characterize evangelicals, retrace their history and assess their current trajectory based on his research “Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be,” which he conducted alongside scholars Mark A. Noll and George M. Marsden, who also are known for their work in evangelical history. The book is set to be released in November.

In order to define evangelicalism, Bebbington identified four enduring characteristics of the evangelical faith: the Bible, the cross, the concept of “being born again” and activism.

Citing recent developments in U.S. politics and evangelicals who face criticism for association with the name, Bebbington reminded the audience of the broader picture of evangelical faith.

“Evangelicals should consider the record of the evangelical movement over time,” Bebbington said. “Especially, they should think how habitually evangelicalism has been the seabed of reform.”

Among other examples, Bebbington referenced how evangelicals led the campaign against the slave trade in Great Britain under William Wilberforce from the 1780s until its abolition in 1807, as well as the abolition of slavery in the United States during the Civil War in 1863.

Bebbington also proposed that American evangelicals should consider the positions and activities of other contemporary evangelicals around the globe as “there are evangelical Christians in many denominations in virtually every land.”

For example, British evangelicals are more likely to lean towards reform than against it, he said.

“British evangelicals are likely to be swing-voters,” he said. “They change their vote, that is to say, due to the circumstance of the times, and they are not enmeshed with a single political party. And that shows that evangelicalism is not necessarily a dimension of a political front, and need not be so.

“It must be insisted that the evangelical movement is religious and not political,” Bebbington continued. “The evangelical movement has often generated reform, time and time again, and evangelicals should not drop the word because circumstances at one political juncture seem to point in that direction. … If you believe the Bible, if you cherish the cross, if you want to promote conversions and if you want to pursue activism, then recognize the identity that you actually have as being an evangelical Christian. Value, then, the evangelical tradition from the premiere of the 18th century. We can rejoice in the commitment of our tradition to changing lives for good in the name of Jesus Christ.”

After teaching since 1976 at the University of Stirling in Scotland, Bebbington recently retired as Emeritus Professor of History. Currently a non-resident senior fellow on the history of religion for Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, Bebbington also has taught for the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Regent College in Vancouver; University of Notre Dame in Indiana; and University of Pretoria in South Africa. Bebbington also is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and he is part of the Royal Historical Society.

Some of Dr. Bebbington’s notable books on evangelicalism include “Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s,” “The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody” and “Baptists Through the Centuries: A History of a Global People.”

Ouachita’s Birkett Williams Endowed Lecture Series was established in 1977 thanks to a gift from the late Birkett L. Williams, a 1910 Ouachita graduate. His generous endowment established the lecture series as an opportunity to extend the concepts of a liberal arts education beyond the classroom by bringing renowned scholars and public figures to Ouachita’s campus. Ouachita’s Pruet School of Christian Studies hosted Bebbington’s lecture. He also delivered Ouachita’s chapel address on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Ouachita names 2019 Alumni Milestone Award recipients

Ouachita Baptist University recognized five outstanding alumni in the 10th class of Ouachita Alumni Milestone Award recipients at its Homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 5: Mauricio Vargas, Dr. Jim Spann, Brad Sullivan, Dr. Sarah Beth Harrington and Laura Cox. This year’s honorees represent the graduating classes of 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009, respectively.

Honored for their professional achievements, community service and dedication to their alma mater, they were selected by a committee of Ouachita faculty, staff and President Ben Sells to represent their respective classes during the Homecoming festivities.

Ouachita President Ben Sells (right) congratulates the 2019 class of Alumni Milestone Award recipients, including (from left): Laura Cox, Dr. Sarah Beth Harrington, Brad Sullivan, Dr. Jim Spann and Mauricio Vargas. Photo by Justin Trostle.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ouachita with a major in Spanish in 1969, Mauricio Vargas moved with his wife, Carolyn, to New Orleans, La., to attend New Orleans Theological Seminary. While in New Orleans, Vargas served through the New Orleans Seaman’s Mission and was integral in starting Hispanic missions at local churches. Vargas later moved to North Carolina, where he served with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) and spread the gospel to Hispanics in North Carolina. Later serving 20 years with the Missouri Baptist Convention, Vargas was the recipient of the “Hispanic Church Planting Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Home Mission Board Language Department and the “Hispanic Heritage Award” from Missouri’s Office of Administration. He and his wife have four children and six grandchildren, and he currently serves as pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Russellville, Mo.

A child of missionaries and second-generation Ouachitonian, Dr. Jim Spann earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and physics from Ouachita in 1979, followed by a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Arkansas. In 1986, Spann joined NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where he spent more than 30 years. He now leads the space weather-related research for NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington, D.C. He has two children and three grandchildren.

After graduating from Ouachita in 1989, Brad Sullivan earned his master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Arkansas. He has served in various roles in the field of education over the past 29 years, from teacher to his current position as superintendent of the South Pike County School District. Sullivan and his wife, Jill, married while students at Ouachita and had two daughters, Bethany, who is now 24 years old, and Hannah, who passed away at the age of 17 after a year-long battle with brain cancer. As a result of their experience with Hannah, they co-founded a nonprofit ministry called While We’re Waiting.

After graduating from Ouachita with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry in 1999, Dr. Sarah Beth (Milam) Harrington earned an M.D. from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine in 2003. After serving as faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., she moved back to Little Rock, where she currently serves as the director of the Palliative Medicine Division at UAMS and chief of palliative care at the VA. She and her husband, Brooks (a 2000 Ouachita graduate) have two sons, Cole and Patrick.

Laura Cox graduated from Ouachita in 2009 with a major in English. She went on to teach English in Kosovo through the International Mission Board and then earn a Master of Arts degree in English language and literature from the University of Arkansas. After teaching for a few more years in Germany and then California, Cox then earned a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. Returning to Arkansas, Cox clerked for Hon. Bobby E. Shepherd (’73). She currently practices law as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in Washington, D.C.

Ouachita’s Blake Johnson receives $75,000 grant from UAMS’ Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program

Dr. Blake Johnson, assistant professor of biology at Ouachita Baptist University, has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program (ABCRP) to support his project “Identification and functional characterization of exosome-derived GPI anchored proteins in breast cancer.” The goal of Johnson’s research is to discover new and less-invasive methods to detect breast cancer earlier and to monitor the disease’s progression during treatment instead of relying on intrusive surgery for testing.

Johnson’s research and funding for the grant is supported by UAMS and its breast cancer research program, ABCRP. The research program, a division of UAMS’ Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, has promoted innovative cancer research aimed at early detection and therapeutic intervention for more than 20 years.

“Grants of this significance indicate the type of work that our faculty are capable of doing,” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of Ouachita’s J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences. “It is a credit to Dr. Johnson that he has built the potential for us to participate in this type of research in the short time he has been a part of the faculty.”

Johnson’s research began in September 2019 and will continue through August 2020. He will be joined in his research by Dr. Yuchun Du of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

In contrast to utilizing methods that test and diagnose breast cancer through surgical procedures, Johnson plans to research biological markers of breast cancer that could be detected in real-time from body fluid.

“Various molecular cancer diagnostic assays have been developed for the management of early-stage breast cancer,” Johnson said. “These assays, however, capture only a limited amount of tumor information as they rely on invasive biopsy tissue. This is problematic as aggressive tumors are often highly heterogeneous and not accurately assessed by small portions of tumor cells.

“Unlike tissue-based biopsies, which require invasive surgical procedures, extracting biological information from cancer-specific exosomes is non-invasive and would allow for early disease detection, as well as ongoing monitoring for signs of potential disease progression during therapeutic intervention,” Johnson explained. “Diagnostic assays that provide real-time information and can be readily performed using only a small portion of bodily fluid are desperately needed in breast cancer.”

Johnson began working at Ouachita in 2017. Originally from El Dorado, Ark., he graduated from Ouachita in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He later earned his Master of Science in human molecular genetics from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and his doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Johnson also was trained as a post-doctoral fellow at UAMS’ Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and has served as a visiting scientist at Stanford Research Institute.

For more information, contact Dr. Tim Knight at knightt@obu.edu or (870) 245-5528.

Ouachita continues to grow residential enrollment, with largest campus community since 2012

The 2019 fall semester marks the third consecutive year of growth in residential undergraduate enrollment at Ouachita Baptist University increasing from 1,492 to 1,506 since last fall. Fueled by growth in new students, Ouachita also recorded its largest residential enrollment since 2012.

Ouachita’s three years of successive growth, including this year’s 1% increase, is noteworthy given the 9% decrease in the number of students enrolled in all of the state’s colleges and universities as reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on June 23.

“The growth is further evidence that Ouachita is rising,” said Dr. Ben Sells, president. “Ouachita is increasingly recognized by students and their families as well as by those who rank universities.”

Recent recognitions include:

  • #1 “Best Value College” in Arkansas by Niche.com, which considers costs, student debt, graduation rates and alumni earnings, along with reviews from students and alumni.
  • #2 “Regional College in the South” (a 12-state region) by U.S. News & World Report.
  • #1 in student satisfaction among all universities in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas by College Consensus

“We’re especially pleased with the ‘best value’ recognition,” Sells said. “It reflects Ouachita’s affordability, high-impact learning and commitment to spiritual growth that contribute to a 99% career outcomes rate, 15 percentage points higher than the national average.”

The career outcomes rate reflects the percentage of graduates who are either employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

Including undergraduate residential, online and concurrent programs, Ouachita’s current enrollment stands at 1,633 students.

Ouachita’s Patterson Summer Research Program sees record student participation, recognition

Ouachita Baptist University’s J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences had a record number of 28 students conducting faculty-advised research during summer break through its Patterson Summer Research Program. Twenty-five of these summer researchers also attended the Central Arkansas Undergraduate Symposium, held July 24 at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Ark., and presented their findings.

Among the 115 student researchers in attendance at the regional event, a total of 10 poster designs were recognized, with four being Ouachita students’ work. Patterson Summer Research students whose work was recognized in the central Arkansas area included Matt Burnham, a senior biology major from Blytheville, Ark.; Taylor Garner, a senior biology major from Hensley, Ark.; and Noah Thompson, a junior biology major from Texarkana, Ark. Brockton Brown, a senior biology major from Sheridan, Ark., and Hunter Jones, a senior biology major from Roland, Ark., were recognized together for their joint poster presentation.

“The Patterson Summer Research program provides the opportunity for our students to set themselves apart when applying for jobs, graduate or professional school,” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of the Patterson School of Natural Sciences and professor of biology. “Our science students receive more hands-on research experience than most any undergraduate student in any university in our region of the country.”

In the Patterson Summer Research Program’s 19-year history, a total of 287 students have worked one-on-one with Ouachita science faculty to conduct research in their respective fields – an opportunity rarely offered at the undergraduate level. Students accepted to the program are provided with a stipend and campus housing at a reduced cost.

“This summer alongside Dr. Sara Hubbard, I investigated the effects of temperature on the release of bisphenol-A from toothbrushes; I was honored to receive an award for one of the top posters at the symposium,” said Taylor Garner, who plans to pursue dental school upon graduation. “After seeing the number of Ouachita students recognized for their accomplishments, it is now evident to me the excellence our professors display when it comes to the Patterson Summer Research Program.”

For Brockton Brown, the initial appeal to apply for the summer research program was the opportunity to research subjects “that really sparked my interest.” Brown, along with Hunter Jones and Dr. Knight, studied the stream quality of Ouachita River tributaries utilizing macrobenthetic species and fish populations.

“Upon getting accepted to do the research, it made my summer great!” Brown said. “I experienced so many cool ways to evaluate nature and got to learn all the ins-and-outs of doing work in the field.”

David Rainwater, a senior biology and chemistry double major from Sheridan, Ark., conducted research with Dr. Nathan Reyna on the role of exosomes on the migration of glioblastoma cells.

“The research was wonderful as I was able to enhance my lab experience and study this material that could possibly lead to new discoveries involving cancer and the way it metastasizes in the body,” Rainwater said. “Ouachita gave me the opportunity to study these cancer cells in a way that few other undergraduate universities in the world are able to, and for that I am beyond thankful.

“This will also give me an opportunity to share with future employers what I have learned about glioblastoma through my research,” he added.

Other Ouachita students who participated in the Patterson Summer Research Program included:

  • Mason Archer, a senior biology major from Arkadelphia, Ark.
  • Sebastian Bustillo, a sophomore physics and mathematics double major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • Asaph Camillo, a junior engineering physics and applied mathematics double major from Nova Friburgo, Brazil.
  • Markie Campbell, a senior nutrition/dietetics major from Bismarck, Ark.
  • Kaleigh Casada, a junior biology and chemistry double major from White Hall, Ark.
  • Kayla Churchwell, a senior chemistry, biology and Spanish triple major from Searcy, Ark.
  • Savannah Edwards, a senior biomedical sciences major from Searcy, Ark.
  • Jordan Gills, a junior biology major from Murfreesboro, Ark.
  • Spencer Greer, a senior biology major from Conway, Ark.
  • Tiffany Koba, a senior biology major from Benton, Ark.
  • Michael Neathery, a senior biology major from Canton, Mich.
  • Kenzie Pickard, a senior biology major from Vilonia, Ark.
  • Susanna Schleiff, a senior environmental studies major from Arkadelphia, Ark.
  • Keller Smith, a senior chemistry and biology double major from Mabelvale, Ark.
  • Kyla Soden, a senior biology major from Cabot, Ark.
  • Abby Walker, a senior biology major from Benton, Ark.
  • Madeline Wallace, a senior nutrition/dietetics major from Arkadelphia, Ark.
  • Madelyn Wauters, a junior chemistry major from Pine Bluff, Ark.
  • Cammie York, a senior biology major from Glenwood, Ark.

Additionally, three Patterson Summer Research students conducted their research off-campus, traveling to Liverpool Hope University. These students included Nicholas Gerber, a junior biology major from Arkadelphia, Ark.; Luke Livingston, a junior biomedical sciences major from Batesville, Ark.; and Beau Pennington, a junior biomedical sciences major from Bee Branch, Ark.

Ouachita faculty members who served as advisers for Patterson Summer Research students included Dr. Joe Bradshaw, W.D. and Alice Burch professor of chemistry and pre-medical studies; Dr. Detri Brech, Charles S. and Elma Grey Goodwin Holt professor of dietetics and pre-medical studies; Dr. Kevin Cornelius, professor of physics; Dr. Sharon Hamilton, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Sara Hubbard, associate professor of chemistry and holder of the Nell I. Mondy Chair of Chemistry; Dr. Blake Johnson, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Ruth Plymale, associate professor of biology and holder of the J.D. Patterson Chair of Biology; Dr. Christin Pruett, associate professor of biology; Dr. Nathan Reyna, associate professor of biology; and Dr. Jim Taylor, professor of biology.

Ouachita’s Patterson Summer Research Program is named in honor of Dr. J.D. Patterson, a 1947 Ouachita alumnus who passed away in 2017. Dr. Patterson, a longtime trustee and benefactor of Ouachita, funded a number of academic initiatives, including the Patterson Summer Research Program. The Patterson School of Natural Sciences also is named in his honor.

In addition to Patterson Endowment funds, Ouachita’s Patterson School of Natural Sciences received summer research funding from Alcoa Foundation, INBRE, ESPCoR, Ross Foundation and NASA. These off-campus funds supported 15 of Ouachita’s 28 summer researchers.

For more information about the Patterson School of Natural Sciences and the summer research program, contact Dr. Tim Knight at knight@obu.edu or (870) 245-5528.

Ouachita Student Foundation named national Outstanding Student Advancement Organization by CASE ASAP

Ouachita Baptist University’s Ouachita Student Foundation (OSF) was named one of three Outstanding Student Advancement Organizations in the nation by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Affiliated Student Advancement Programs (ASAP) at its national conference and competition, held Aug. 1-3 in Baltimore. The award was presented to Ouachita, Ohio University and University of Missouri out of 700 CASE ASAP member schools.

photograph of CASE ASAP Outstanding Organization award.

OSF’s national recognition follows its District 4 Outstanding Student Advancement Organization win this spring. District 4 includes member schools in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The district win qualified OSF for the national CASE ASAP conference and competition, pitting OSF against district winners in the other seven districts nationally. Jon Merryman, director of the Ouachita Student Foundation, and OSF leadership members Selby Tucker, Mason Woolbright and Addy Goodman were present to accept the 2019 award.

This is the second consecutive year that OSF has earned a national CASE ASAP recognition. Ouachita’s Tiger Tunes competition, an annual campus-wide event coordinated by OSF in which students raise money for student scholarships, was named the CASE ASAP 2018 Outstanding Student Advancement Program in the nation.

“Receiving two awards in two years is an incredibly high honor for OSF and Ouachita,” said Selby Tucker, a senior accounting and political science double major from Hamburg, Ark. Tucker, OSF president for the 2019-2020 school year, also was recognized this spring as Outstanding Student Leader in District 4.

“Having seen the schools and organizations we have been up against for the past two years, we are overjoyed that our small organization and small campus have had such a huge impact,” she added. “This is a testament to our members’ hard work, our incredible legacy and our leadership past and present.”

CASE is an international association that serves educational institutions in the areas of communications, marketing, alumni relations and development. ASAP is an organization within CASE that helps organizations such as OSF elevate their programs and learn best practices. The annual national conference encourages participants to collaborate and share how they conduct their organizations and events.

OSF became a member of ASAP in 2017 and was asked to lead breakout sessions at the 2019 CASE ASAP conference. Tucker, Goodman, a senior communications & media/communications studies and political science double major from Arkadelphia, Ark., and Woolbright, a junior business administration/management and entrepreneur double major from Benton, Ark., led breakout sessions about Tiger Tunes and peer-funded scholarship programs.

“Being so new to this organization, it was really fun to get a glimpse of what it was all about, win [in 2018] and then be asked to come back this year and present what the Ouachita Student Foundation does,” Merryman said. “You go to these breakouts with big schools who have great presentations and are doing great things, and they have been attending CASE for years. We are at that level with OSF.”

“It was great to be able to represent Ouachita and OSF at CASE this year in Baltimore,” said Woolbright, OSF vice president for the 2019-2020 school year. “While we’re here on campus, we know how great OSF is, but it’s awesome to see that others around the country also think so. Going up against big name schools and winning was great!”

For Goodman, who is director of OSF’s special events Tiger Tunes and Tiger Traks, leading breakouts at the CASE ASAP conference was an opportunity to “share what we are passionate about in OSF – Tiger Tunes and peer-funded scholarships in general.”

“We even talked about OSF being the hands and feet of Jesus,” Goodman said. “It was neat to see how people wanted to talk with us. The difference OSF makes on-campus at Ouachita – people could see it.”

In 2019, OSF is celebrating its 45th year of “students helping students.” The primary way OSF helps students is by raising funds for scholarships to help selected juniors and seniors stay and finish their education at Ouachita. In addition to raising funds for students through flagship events like Tiger Tunes and Tiger Traks, members serve as ambassadors for the university president, lead campus tours and serve concessions at home football games, receiving a portion of the proceeds for scholarships.

Since 1974, more than 1,000 Ouachita students have served as members of OSF, and more than $1.6 million has been raised and awarded to students as part of the scholarship process. OSF currently is comprised of a steering committee of 14 students and a total membership of 126 students.

Ouachita is first university in Arkansas to earn Gold Status credential from American College of Sports Medicine

Ouachita Baptist University recently became the first university in Arkansas to earn a Gold Status credential from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for its participation and excellence in the organization’s Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) program. This marks the third time Ouachita’s program has been recognized by ACSM, following two Silver Status recognitions in 2018 and 2016.

The Exercise is Medicine program is a global initiative of ACSM that promotes wellness education as well as including physical activity and evidence-based exercise programs in medical treatment. Ouachita’s program is managed by the Department of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies.

Dr. Terry DeWitt, professor of kinesiology and leisure studies, attended ACSM’s annual meeting in Orlando earlier this summer to accept Ouachita’s award. Dr. Amber Chelette, assistant professor of kinesiology and leisure studies, also attended the event.

“Being recognized as a leader in health and exercise promotion in regards to preventative medicine is critical to our success as a campus and global leaders,” DeWitt said.

“Ouachita is also the only ACSM Gold Status university in the state of Arkansas,” he added. “I think this says a lot about what our kinesiology and leisure studies faculty have accomplished in the past five years.”

ACSM launched its Exercise is Medicine recognition program in 2014 to honor campuses for their participation and engagement in living a healthy lifestyle. Universities are able to earn gold, silver or bronze status based on their involvement and commitment to health.

In 2016, Ouachita was one of only 15 universities in the nation to achieve Silver Status, and has since continued to implement and improve its wellness program both on- and off-campus.

The Department of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies hosts a community outreach event in the fall during a home basketball or volleyball game to promote a healthy lifestyle. Community participants have the opportunity to visit stations and learn about exercise and diet or to take a brief health assessment. Ouachita also partners with a local elementary school to offer an organized recess to second and third graders.

Another step Ouachita has taken to promote wellness education and exercise in the Arkadelphia community is communicating with local healthcare providers, inviting them to send some of their obese patients who are experiencing health issues to the department’s community outreach lab.

“What we are doing is incorporating real people with real problems in the real world – some on campus, some off – into our wellness program,” DeWitt said in a previous interview.

In addition to the national recognition from ACSM, Ouachita recently secured a mini-grant of $1,000 from Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Blue & You Foundation to support its campus program.

For more information, contact Dr. Terry DeWitt at dewittt@obu.edu or (870) 245-5264.

Ouachita’s Department of Biological Sciences promotes undergraduate research through AR-CURE workshop

Ouachita Baptist University’s Department of Biological Sciences recently hosted its third AR-CURE Synthetic Biology Workshop to share its innovative course-based research project with institutions seeking to conduct semester-long undergraduate research. The 2019 workshop, held June 16-19 on Ouachita’s campus, was attended by 30 faculty members representing institutions in 17 states.

The Arkansas-Course Embedded Undergraduate Research Experience (AR-CURE) is an academic initiative developed by Ouachita’s Department of Biological Sciences and is aligned with a national movement in science to incorporate more research into the undergraduate classroom. Having gained success with students building and analyzing synthetic genes in his research-based Genetics Laboratory course, Ouachita’s Dr. Nathan Reyna pursued a four-year grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the dissemination of Ouachita’s course-based research model to other institutions.

“Traditional science labs are a series of weekly, observation-type of lab experience, often referred to as ‘Cookbook Labs,’” said Reyna, assistant professor of biology at Ouachita and director of AR-CURE. “We want to create labs that are true semester-long research experiences. … The AR-CURE project gives faculty a model they can use to modify how they approach teaching science.”

The 2019 AR-CURE workshop, funded by NSF and the Arkansas Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (AR-EPSCoR), taught faculty participants the importance of course-based research and shared how to conduct Ouachita’s Synthetic Biology project at their institutions. It also encouraged collaborators who had previously attended the workshop to share the challenges and triumphs of developing the project at their institutions.

“This workshop is unique in that Dr. Reyna is ‘teaching the teachers,’” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of the Patterson School of Natural Sciences and professor of biology. “His workshop is set up to help other faculty at other institutions do what we are doing in our Department of Biological Sciences.”

Reyna led Ouachita’s AR-CURE workshop along with co-director Dr. Ruth Plymale, associate professor of biology at Ouachita and holder of the J.D. Patterson Chair of Biology. One of Ouachita’s primary goals with the workshop, Plymale said, “is to empower faculty from small or resource-limited schools to conduct authentic research with their students.”

“Faculty apply to attend and are selected on various criteria, including if they are from a community college or minority-serving institution,” she said.

According to Reyna, 11 institutions and almost 300 students participated in course-based research during the 2018-2019 academic year as a result of Ouachita’s 2018 AR-CURE workshop. Reyna said he expects about half of this year’s 30 workshop attendees to use Ouachita’s Synthetic Biology project as their class Course-embedded Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE), while the other half will use the model to create their own CURE project.

Having transitioned all of her Ouachita classes to a CURE-based curriculum, Plymale provided insight during the workshop about how faculty might adapt their own courses and projects to be CURE-based.

“Course-based research extends the high-impact research experience to every student enrolled in a course, giving each student the opportunity to confront and overcome failure through working to solve a unique problem,” Plymale explained. “In the Department of Biology, we utilize course-based research at the freshman and junior and senior levels because we firmly believe that science is a necessarily repetitive process.

“Just like making one good cake does not mean that you are a baker, having one good independent research experience does not make the student a scientist,” she added. “The repeated research opportunities provided by course-based research are valuable in developing our students into scientists.”

Another highlight of Ouachita’s annual AR-CURE workshop is OBU students’ involvement. This year, Jake Edmondson, a 2019 biology graduate from Benton, Ark., and three Patterson Summer Research Program senior biology students – Taylor Garner, a senior from Hensley, Ark.; Tiffany Koba, a senior from Benton, Ark.; and Cammie York, a senior from Glenwood, Ark. – helped facilitate the wet lab portion of the workshop.

“The guest faculty work through the student laboratory experience of creating a synthetic gene, and the students are invaluable as lab facilitators because they have completed the lab and can provide genuine insights into laboratory successes, struggles and lessons,” Plymale said.

Additionally, Reyna and Plymale have worked to make their AR-CURE teaching opportunities available to Arkansas high schools. The week of June 11, Reyna and Plymale hosted 10 high school biology teachers on campus for a bioinformatics high school outreach project they are developing; bioinformatics is the use of computers to analyze biological data. In the spring of both 2018 and 2019, they also helped their biology students host a “Genome Hack-a-Thon” bioinformatics workshop for high school students.

“Our model is to train our students and then let them train others through our science education outreach projects,” Reyna said. “The Genome Hack-a-Thon is a perfect example of this. On the day of the actual event, the students in our Bioinformatics class led the entire day’s activities.”

Since AR-CURE’s initial start, “we continue to seek opportunities to broaden student participation in authentic science,” Plymale said.

For more information about Ouachita’s AR-CURE Synthetic Biology Workshop or the Department of Biological Sciences, contact Dr. Nathan Reyna at reynan@obu.edu or (870) 245-5240.

Six Ouachita science students selected to present at National Conference on Undergraduate Research Six Ouachita science students selected to present at National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Six Ouachita Baptist University students from the Patterson School of Natural Sciences were selected to present their independent research projects at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) held at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., April 11-13. NCUR is a biennial event that brings together students, faculty and academic professionals interested in the improvement and promotion of undergraduate research.

Chosen from more than 4,000 student research submissions, Ouachita students Hayden Bowman, a junior biomedical science major from Searcy, Ark., and Kelsey O’Brien, a senior biology and psychology double major from Weatherford, Texas, were accepted to present poster presentations, while Olivia Brown, Kayla Haberman, Justin McGee and Danielle Schaal were accepted to present oral presentations. Brown is a senior biology major from North Little Rock, Ark.; Haberman is a senior biology and psychology double major from Lorena, Texas; McGee is a senior psychology and biomedical sciences double major from Benton, Ark.; and Schaal is a senior biology major from Fayetteville, Ark.

“NCUR is a celebration of undergraduate research,” said Dr. Nathan Reyna, associate professor of biology at Ouachita. “It was a good opportunity, and it shows that what Ouachita is doing related to student engagement is relevant and robust. Students were able to see the quality of research being done by other students and see how their work compared.

“Our students represented Ouachita well, and we are very proud of them,” Dr. Reyna added.

“The NCUR event was significant to me because it was my first experience to present any sort of research work I have done,” said Brown, who presented research titled “Cancer CURE: Glioblastoma Uses Exomes to Modify Their Cellular Niche Environment.” “It was not a competition, but I did have to apply and be accepted to do an oral presentation, so this was great experience in getting my research ready for a conference and not just a class presentation.”

For McGee, who presented his research, “Exosome-Induced Neuronal Differentiation,” attending the conference and representing Ouachita at the national level “was pretty amazing.”

“I presented research on exosomes, which are small vesicles released from cells that carry genetic information. I looked at their effect on improving neuronal differentiation, which is a fancy term for helping neurons grow,” he said. “The biggest thing I learned was how well Ouachita and the natural sciences department prepare us from a research perspective.”

Schaal presented “Role of Exomes on Cell Differentiation into Cancer Subtypes: an RNA Sequencing Analysis.” Her next step is to publish the research.

“My collaborators and I are hoping to have it published by the end of the school year,” Schaal said. “This will be very exciting for me because I will be a primary author on a major science publication as an undergraduate student. Most people don’t publish a paper until graduate school, so this is quite an accomplishment.”

Haberman presented “Carbon Nano-Onion as an Extracellular Growth Matrix for Stimulating Neuronal Regeneration;” O’Brien presented “Examining the Expression Profile of PD-1/PD-L1 in EGFR Positive Glioblastoma Multiforme;” and Bowman presented “Lysogenic Host Bacterium Alters Infectivity of Gordonia Bacteriophage.”

Funding for research and travel was provided by the National Institute of Health through AR-INBRE program, and by the National Science Foundation through AR-EPSCoR and the Cell Biology Education Consortium. Students conducted their research as part of the J.D. Patterson Ouachita Summer Research Fellowship.