Students show off science projects

Shaikha Almawlani
Staff Writer

Chemistry and biology student projects were showcased at the Natural Science Division Senior Symposium on Wednesday in the Campus Center.

The symposium incorporated 12 individual and group senior project presentations.

Students presented their research and conclusions on a poster and explained it to several dozen audience members.

Senior biology major Letty Cardenas attended ULV for four years before taking a few years off and returning to the University to graduate. She started working on her project during her junior year while helping with another student research project.

Cardenas said she found the research project helpful in learning discipline and consistency.

“The most interesting part about this whole thing is that you have a problem, and you have to brainstorm to figure it out. That can create other problems, and you’re constantly thinking about how it ties together.”

Cardenas’ senior project was based on biology professor Christine Broussard’s extensive research on developmental immunotoxicology, specifically molecules termed endocrine-disruptors. Broussard served as supervisor and collaborator for the project.

“Personally, I really enjoyed it,” Cardenas said. “I think it is a way to help us figure out if even research is something we want to do, and we get hands-on experience so it is a lot easier for us to understand the process of the scientific method.”

Cardenas’ research aimed to determine whether the age of laboratory mice exposed to metabolite of Methoxylchor, or HPTE, affects the outcome of thymocyte exposure, which is exposure to hematopoietic progenitor cells.

“It gets us thinking about things that don’t just affect us, but figure out these problems and find solutions for them,” Cardenas said.

Cardenas said she is confident that her mentor will publish all the findings once the research is complete.

Mary Carrillo, senior biology major with a pre-med concentration, was also supervised by Broussard. She has been a member of Broussard’s lab since her sophomore year and has worked on this project for two years.

“It is really essential,” Carrillo said. “A lot of people that I had talked to in master’s programs have told me that they had never gotten the opportunity to work on a lab. It’s tedious, but you gain so much out of it.”

Carrillo is interested in immunology and toxicology. She focused her project on the toxins metabolite of Methoxylchor and synthetic estrogen, or DES, at different concentrations to see how they affect the cell cycle analysis.

“A lot of people who are exposed to these chemicals do not know about them,” Carrillo said. “I am really interested in the public health aspect about it and informing people about toxins. We should have more regulations to these toxins because we do not know what they are doing to our bodies.”

Carrillo concluded that the cells are dying at higher concentrations and at 24 hours. She is looking forward to earning her masters degree in cell biology.

Senior biology majors Jovanny Mercado, Jennifer Hernandez and Horacio Peralta collaborated under the supervision of assistant biology professor Todd Lorenz to research the isolation of chitinase-producing bacteria. Hernandez initiated the project and had worked on it alongside Mercado and Peralta for the past three years.

“Our objective for this was to isolate some bacteria that produce chitinase,” Mercado said. “We are trying to find a healthy microbe that will break down this fungus without having it affect our health. Personally, I wanted to look into something more environmental and health-related.”

The Keck Graduate Institute has shown interest in expansion of the research and continuing to isolate the gene in order to develop antifungal medicine.

“I’m actually going to be attending KGI,” Peralta said. “We might continue isolating the gene that we found and use it for medicinal purposes, such as antifungal medicine. Having the opportunity to do this research and all the techniques required to isolate and obtain the DNA sequences, it really prepared me for the kind of study I am doing in the future.”

Mercado and Hernandez both highlighted the impact this experience had on them.

“If you want to enroll in higher education, having this experience that you can’t get in another place will make you a more competitive person in the workplace,” Mercado said.

Shaikha Almawlani can be reached at

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