Ouachita biology team selected to present research at “Posters on the Hill” in D.C.

Dr. Lori Hensley, associate professor of biology at Ouachita Baptist University, and three senior biology students have been invited to present their research on “The Effects of Ajulemic Acid on Pediatric Cancers” next month in Washington, D.C.

Ouachita Baptist University senior biology majors (from left) Nolan West, Vikki Bennett and Cara McKinney

Ouachita Baptist University senior biology majors (from left) Nolan West, Vikki Bennett and Cara McKinney will join Dr. Lori Hensley, associate professor of biology, in presenting their research on “The Effects of Ajulemic Acid on Pediatric Cancers” during the 2012 “Posters on the Hill” event April 24 in Washington, D.C.

The Ouachita team is among 74 groups invited to participate in the Council on Undergraduate Research “Posters on the Hill” event on April 24. The groups were selected from more than 850 applications from across the nation. Participants will meet with congressmen and senators, displaying their research and explaining the importance of undergraduate research.

Accompanying Dr. Hensley will be Vikki Kay Bennett, a senior biology major from Jonesboro, Ark.; Cara McKinney, a senior biology major from Hughes Springs, Texas; and Nolan West, a senior biology major from Bolivar, Mo. Bennett and McKinney also participated with several other Ouachita students in the recent “Arkansas STEM Posters at the Capitol” event in Little Rock.

Addressing Ewing’s sarcoma, a highly aggressive pediatric bone cancer, the research focuses on the ability of ajulemic acid to kill Ewing’s sarcoma cells and limit the migration of tumor cells. Documenting the team’s research aims and rationale as well as their studies and results, the project highlights results that “provide the rationale for the development of improved therapies for this devastating family of cancers.” 

This marks the second time in four years that a Ouachita team has been selected to participate in “Posters on the Hill.” Dr. Hensley and a group of her students previously participated in 2009.

“It is a great honor to have Dr. Hensley’s group chosen again for the Posters on the Hill event,” said Dr. Joe Jeffers, dean of Ouachita’s J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences. “It gives our students a chance to talk with our congressmen and senators to explain the importance of undergraduate research.”

Ouachita President Rex Horne and his wife, Becky, accompanied the group in 2009 and will do so again this year. Dr. Horne will set up meetings for the students with the Arkansas congressional delegation.

“Our students chosen to present in Washington, D.C., and other venues through the year are a select group,” President Horne said. “These students represent Ouachita so well and reflect positively upon their professors, the Patterson School and their own commitment to excellence.”

According to the Council on Undergraduate Research, “Nothing more effectively demonstrates the value of undergraduate research than the words and stories of the student participants themselves. … This event will help members of Congress understand the importance of undergraduate research by talking directly with the students whom these programs impact.”

Reflecting on the 2009 Posters of the Hill event, Dr. Hensley noted, “It was a tremendous honor when the students presented their work on Capitol Hill, but the recognition, to me, was not the most important outcome. These students achieved my primary goal: Students gaining the confidence to ask questions about the world around them and, in doing so, becoming increasingly able to direct their own futures.”

By Trennis Henderson, OBU vice president for communications