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UVI Student Wins First Place in National Conference

University of the Virgin Islands student Vanessa Malone won first prize in a national science conference. Malone and six other UVI students joined approximately 800 other students from across the nation at the Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) National Student Research Conference, held Oct. 23 - 26 in Atlanta, GA. The conference highlights undergraduate student research and institutional strategies to enhance the quality of undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research at HBCUs.

Malone was a winner of one of the few prizes awarded at the conference, winning first prize in the field of chemistry for work done with UVI faculty mentor, Dr. Omar Christian. In each discipline, first, second and third place was awarded for oral and poster presentations. Malone's project targets a Virgin Islands sponge species which is known to produce a suite of very biologically active (anti-cancer) metabolites. Results to date point to several promising leads from this project, as the extracts significantly inhibit the growth of several human cancer cell lines (e.g. lung and colon). The aim of Malone's and Dr. Christian's research is to isolate and identify the active component from this sponge. Even more exciting is the possibility of a obtaining a new drugable chemical entity.

"I am extremely pleased with Vanessa's performance; she took ownership of this project at an early stage," said Dr. Camille McKayle, interim dean of UVI's Division of Science and Mathematics. "She continues to amaze me with her depth of knowledge above and beyond the normal expectations of an undergraduate student," Dr. McKayle said. Dr. Christian said, "she is one of UVI's best and brightest."

"UVI students presented their work alongside peers, and the University can be proud of the poise and knowledge that all the students conveyed," said Dr. McKayle. "This conference is an opportunity for students to participate in a professional conference as scientists sharing their research projects in poster and oral presentations." Dr. McKayle serves on the Advisory Committee for the conference. "The conference is a great example of an outcome of the National Science Foundation HBCU-UP program, which aims to strengthen the quality of the undergraduate STEM education that the nation's HBCUs provide their students."

The research by Malone and Dr. Christian has been supported by the Division of Science and Mathematics at UVI and the NSF HBCU-UP program. To learn more about UVI students' research, visit http://ecs.uvi.edu/ and click on Research Symposium.

The conference is organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and funded by the National Science Foundation.