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UVI Students are Major Winners at National Science Conference

University of the Virgin Islands' College of Science and Mathematics students received multiple awards this month after attending the 12th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in San Jose, California.

More than 3,000 people, including 1,800 students from 350 colleges in the United States, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam, competed for multiple awards in the disciplines of mathematical, biomedical and behavioral sciences.

Four awards were presented to current and former UVI students during the four day conference, which was held from Nov. 7 to 10.

The winners were awarded $250 for their presentations. The winners included:

  • Tasha Corneille, a junior biology major, won a best poster presentation award in the category of engineering, physics and mathematics for work that she did this summer at UVI on overfishing in the Virgin Islands.
  • Shenee' Martin, a junior psychology major, won a best poster award in neurosciences for Alzheimer 's research conducted this summer at the University of Puerto Rico.
  • Tobias Ortega-Knight, a junior computer science major, won a best poster award in the category of molecular and computational biology for research conducted this summer at Michigan State University. Tobias' research involved a computer program to analyze data from microbes found inside the human body.
  • Danny Lynch, a junior computer science major, also won a best poster award in the molecular and computational biology category for research conducted this summer at Michigan State University. Lynch's research involved a computer program to analyze Ribonucleic Acid sequences or RNA sequences to better understand gene expression and function.
    Ortega-Knight and Martin won an additional $50 prize for outstanding interdisciplinary work in their fields.

Two UVI biology alumni who graduated in May 2012 also won prizes in these categories:

  • Nicole Fleming, now in a post-baccalaureate program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, won a best poster award in the cell biology category.
  • Blanche Letang, now in a post-baccalaureate program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, won a best poster award in the immunology category.

"UVI's record was truly outstanding," said Dr. Teresa Turner, director of UVI's National Institutes of Health funded programs. "It was an amazing performance. Our students now realize that their work is as competitive as the best undergraduate research in the country. The opportunity to conduct cutting edge research and present it to other scientists is a key part of the educational experience."

"UVI's pride in the students' achievements was clear," said Dr. Turner who described her colleague's enthusiasm at the competition. "Dr. Velma Tyson was the first person in the door for the awards banquet at the end of the conference. She ran to the front of the room to claim the tables near the stage so that we could all sit together and we could congratulate the UVI winners as they came to the stage." Dr. Tyson is a mathematics professor on the Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix.

Funding for the research and travel came from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as from donors to UVI. Students presented research conducted on St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as off-island at partner institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Boston University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, West Michigan University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.