Alcorn biology student wins award for research in pharmacology at ABRCMS national conference  

Keiera_ed for web 

Alcorn State University student Keiera Ducksworth, a senior biology major from Taylorsville, Mississippi, made her department and her university proud. Keiera’s research work in pharmacology won the best presentation award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) conference held recently in St. Louis, Missouri.

“It is a big achievement,” stated Dr. Bettaiya Rajanna, chairperson for the Biology Department. “Over 1500 students from all over the nation held their research presentations in various areas of biological sciences. Out of these 1500 papers, 215 papers were judged as the best presentation in 11 scientific categories. And we are so proud that Keiera was among the winners and received a certificate of achievement and a cash prize of $250.”

Keiera Ducksworth’s research work “A Comparative Study and Establishment of Mechanism of Action of Marketed Antidiabetic Polyherbal Formulations” was part of Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) held at Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India, from June 8 to August 12, 2011. She received training in pharmaceutical research from Dr. Rajeswararo Pragada, professor of pharmacy, and two of his doctoral students.

“I received excellent research experience from a group of distinguished research scientists at Andhra University,” said Keiera. “I know now that research in pharmacology is what I would like to do upon graduation from Alcorn. I would like to work at hospital laboratory for a while and then apply to graduate school.”

Dr. Rajanna, principal investigator and MHIRT program director who oversees and coordinates all research projects that Alcorn students are involved in India, said: “All our students who went through MHIRT training in India have done an outstanding job in research.
The ABRCMS conference is a prestigious meeting of young minority researchers from all over the nation that is financially supported by various research and science organizations, including NIGMS of National Institutes of Health, and is managed by American Society of Microbiology. ABRCMS is a premier research conference held each year in the second week of November.

At this year’s conference there were four ASU- MHIRT participants besides Keiera Ducksworth, who received training in India and made presentations of their research work. Terrence Edwards, a senior majoring in computer science, held research in evaluation of antioxidant activity of certain herbal extracts and developed a computer model to explain the properties of these herbal extracts; Essence Henderson, a junior majoring in biochemistry and biology, who assessed potential of subclinical Vitamin B12 deficient young adults; Delisha Horton, a senior majoring in social science who investigated effects of working conditions of mothers’ from poor families on health and wellbeing of their children; and Courtney Simpson, a senior majoring in computer science, who did a study of antibiotic resistance of E.Coli among women outpatients at St. John’s Medical College Hospital.

“All students made excellent presentations,” said Mrs. Sharada Rajanna, assistant professor of computer science and co-director of ASU-MHIRT program. “We are so happy that our students had a chance to learn not only science but also about life in another part of the world.”

Since the ASU-MHIRT program first opened in 2001, about 90 students received research training in India. Most of the program alumni have achieved excellence in academic and professional careers. Program director Dr. Rajanna is a well recognized and established researcher who has been working at Alcorn since 1995. He received his master and doctoral degrees from Mississippi State University. Dr. Rajanna has been actively involved in academic facilities development, environmental research and student research training since 1979. Since then, he has received grants and awards in excess of $26 million. Dr. Rajanna has published over 71 research papers in refereed research journals, and his students have made over 285 research presentations at various national and international research meetings. Dr. Rajanna is a recipient of 1988 White House Award for Excellence in Science and Technology in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 1991, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Selma University, Selma, Alabama.

The next MHIRT program is set for June 2-August 10, 2012, at two research sites in India. Applications will be available in January 2012. Interested students may contact Dr. Bettaiya Rajanna at 601.877.6681, Mrs. Sharada Rajanna at 601.877.3984, or Ms. Corvet McNeil, administrative assistant, at the Department of Biological Sciences, at 601.877.6235.