Arkansas INBRE 2012 Conference

INBRE 2012 Presentation Awards

1st Place Oral:  Rebecca Trubitt, University of Arkansas (B12)
2nd Place Oral:  Kanika Topiwala, UALR (B7)

1st Place Poster:  Robin Brown, Hendrix College (B18)
2nd Place Poster:  Lauren Gentles, UA Fayetteville (B2)
3rd Place Poster:  Ryan James, Ouachita Baptist University (B34)

1st Place Oral:  Claire Desrochers, University of Central Arkansas (C16)
2nd Place Oral:  Kaila Pianalto, UA Fayetteville (C24)

1st Place Poster:  Kaitlyn Bryant, UA Fayetteville (C17)
2nd Place Poster:  Ronnie Ruyonga, Arkansas State University (C31)
3rd Place Poster:  Valerie Nickel, Ouachita Baptist University (C30)

1st Place Oral:  James Hansen, Missouri State University (P23)
2nd Place Oral:  Wesley Clawson, UA Fayetteville (P10)

1st Place Poster:  Bryan Wofford, University of Central Arkansas (P8)
2nd Place Poster:  Josh Jasper, Henderson State University (P14)

The following undergraduates were chosen in 2011 to present oral presentations with the option of also making a poster presentation.Biology Oral Presentations

  • Carrie Yang, Hendrix College
  • Harold Owiti, Williams Baptist College
  • Jessie Cunningham, UA Fort Smith
  • Autumn Bryant, Lyon College
  • Kanika Topiwala, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Rebecca Trubitt, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Chemistry and Biochemistry Oral Presentations

  • Lisa Orr, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Kaila Pianalto, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  • Claire Desrochers, University of Central Arkansas
  • Etienne Nzabarushimana, Hendrix College
  • Tim Horton, Ouachita Baptist University
  • Jake Johnson, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Physics Oral Presentations

  • Kahli E. Remy, Southern Arkansas University
  • Wesley Clawson, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  •  Nick Martinez, University of Central Arkansas
  • Michael Urteaga and Tyler Constantini, Pittsburg State University
  • James Hansen, Missouri State University

Featured Speaker

Making a Difference: An Evening with Jane Goodall

Barnhill Arena, University of Arkansas
Friday, October 5, 2012, 7 p.m.

Cosponsored by the University of Arkansas Honors College and the Distinguished Lectures Committee.

Faculty Talks

Howard Hendrickson, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1:35 – 1:55)

TITLE: The Biopterin Metabolome – Unlocking the Mysteries of Ionizing Radiation Injury

Abstract: Targeted ionizing radiation for the therapeutic treatment of malignancies or accidental exposure to whole body irradiation is known to cause injury to multiple organ systems, including intestinal injury, cardiovascular disease, cerebral injury, and general oxidative stress. Our group has established several biomarkers (i.e., tetrahydrobiopterin, citrulline, and oxidative stress indicators) of radiation injury to the intestines and brain. Taken together these biomarkers all point to oxidative stress as the central mechanism for injury to these organ systems. The biopterin metabolome is a key regulator of oxygen transfer and control of oxidative stress and a targeted metabolomics approach is likely to lead to a better mechanistic understanding of radiation-induced injury. But challenges to current bioanalytical methodologies have prevented a comprehensive determination of the biopterin metabolites and downstream metabolites (e.g., neurotransmitters, amino acids, and fatty aldehydes). We have developed uHPLC-MS/MS based methodology capable of determining oxygen sensitive metabolites using a powerful antioxidant mixture.

The biopterin metabolome encompasses a complex set of pathways, which regulate the hydroxylation of three amino acids (phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan) resulting in the formation of dopamine and serotonin, and the synthesis of nitric oxide from arginine. Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is a cofactor in the hydroxylation of fatty aldehydes. Deficiencies in BH4 have been linked directly to hyperphenylalaninemia, DOPA-responsive dystonia, and our group has recently shown a strong BH4/nitric oxide synthase-correlation to radiation-induced injury.

We have assembled a team with expertise in analytical chemistry, radiation biology, metabolomics, nutrition, and bioinformatics to address and develop a systems biology approach toward understanding the relationships between the complex biopterin metabolome and radiation injury to very specific organ systems. A Targeted Metabolomics approach will be described to correlate specific metabolic changes with radiation-induced injury. A novel transgenic mouse model that will have an effect on specific metabolites in the biopterin metabolome will also be described.

Our goals are to develop a clearer understanding of the mechanisms leading to radiation-induced injury and to produce a reliable diagnostic for the early detection of radiation-induced injury.

Woodrow Shew, Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Arkansas (2:00 – 2:20)

TITLE: Phase Transition and Information Processing in the Brain

Abstract: The cerebral cortex is a highly complex network comprised of billions of excitable nerve cells. Dynamic interactions among these cells underlie our thoughts, memories, and sensory perceptions. A healthy brain must carefully regulate its neural excitability to optimize information processing and avoid brain disorders. If excitability is too low, neural interactions are too weak and signals fail to propagate through the brain network. On the other hand, high excitability can result in excessively strong interactions and, in some cases, epileptic seizures. While it is commonly supposed that healthy neural excitability must lie between these extremes, the optimal degree of excitability is not known.

In this colloquium I will present new experimental evidence that brain dynamics undergo a phase transition as neural excitability is turned from low to high. Importantly, the critical excitability at which the phase transition occurs also results in optimal information processing. These results suggest that the optimal excitability is that which places the brain closest to the phase transition. Moreover, many mental disorders such as epilepsy, Down syndrome, and autism may be caused by deviation from this optimal excitability.

Lori Hensley, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Biology, Ouachita Baptist University (2:25 – 2:45)

TITLE: Antitumor Effects of Ajulemic Acid on Ewing’s Sarcoma

Abstract: Ewing’s sarcoma is a pediatric bone cancer that is highly aggressive, leading to a five-year survival rate of less than 30%, even with multi-modal treatment protocols. Improved therapeutic options are desperately needed. Our research, completed primarily by undergraduate students, has focused on the abilities of ajulemic acid, a nonpsychoactive synthetic cannabinoid, to decrease hallmarks of tumorigenicity. Our data show that ajulemic acid can successfully decrease cell viability through the induction of apoptosis, decrease tumor and endothelial cell migratory capacities, and inhibit angiogenesis in in vitro model systems. We have also developed a bioluminescent mouse model to test the efficacy of ajulemic acid against tumor cells in an in vivo system. In this model, luciferase-expressing tumor cells are injected into the tibiae of mice and the growth or regression of tumors in control and treated mice is tracked. Using this murine model, we demonstrate that tumors can be induced to grow in the bone and will metastasize to the lungs, mimicking the human disease. We hypothesize that these experiments provide the basis for the development of cannabinoid-based therapies for this devastating family of cancers.


  1. Career Options and Advice – Hammons Hall III
  2. Weapons of Math Instruction:  Geometry in Elementary and Advanced Physics – Presenter is Bill Harter, professor, department of physics, Univ. of Arkansas at Fayetteville.  Arkansas Ballroom C
  3. Teaching the Biochemistry Laboratory – Arkansas Ballroom B

Workshop 1 – Undergraduate Career Workshop: Preparing for life after graduation (Hammons Hall III)

The workshop is designed to assist undergraduate students with choosing and planning career paths. The workshop aims are to 1) introduce key aspects of the career decision and preparation process, and 2) to provide an opportunity to meet and ask questions of working science professionals. The first part of the workshop will entail a short presentation of key aspects of career planning, including understanding the job market, where to look for a job, the power of networking, the place of values in the job search, resume writing and preparing for the interview. The second part of the workshop will be comprised of a panel of science professionals from different career fields and a representative from the University of Arkansas Career Services department. After a brief introduction, students will have the opportunity to ask questions about career choices, education expectations, typical daily tasks, skills and qualifications, etc.

Workshop 2 – Weapons of Math Instruction: Geometry in Elementary and Advanced Physics 10:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. (Arkansas Ballroom C)

Bill Harter, professor, department of physics, University of Arkansas

Abstract: Plain old plane geometry can provide powerful teaching and research tools especially when combined with modern computers and display devices. It is one of the Seven Liberal Arts that goes back to originators of mathematics and science such as Thales (~600BCE), Euclid (~330BCE), Galileo (1564-1642), Kepler (1571-1630), and Newton (1643-1727) to name a few geometers. Many insightful constructions by ruler, compass, and other drafting aids are surprisingly easy to derive and construct as a way to help visualize and deeply learn difficult concepts of mathematical physics ranging from basic classical mechanics to advanced relativity and quantum theory. Computers aid by providing precise specialty graph paper and animations.

The WMI:Geometry workshop will explore some of the following examples in this range.

  • Three easy steps that solve lots of collision problems (and derive momentum-energy “laws” along with advanced concepts of Lagrangian, Hamiltonian, and contact transformations)
  • Four easy steps to derive Rutherford-Coulomb scattering orbits and caustics
  • Five easy steps to derive Runga-Lenz-Lagrange scattering orbits and caustics
  • Six easy steps to derive a space-time wave fractal (known as “quantum carpet”) that discovers all relatively prime fractions up to a prescribed level
  • Seven easy steps to derive Einstein-Lorentz relativity transformation (and understand relativistic quantum theory at a much deeper level than standard texts provide)
  • Eight easy steps to make a pocket sundial that accurately predicts sunrise, sunset, civil and nautical twilight, and sunburn hazard in Minimum Erythemal Dose (MED) units.

Graph paper and drawing instruments will be provided to do a select few of the examples. Instructions for the other examples will printed in handouts available after the workshop.


Workshop 3 – Teaching the Biochemistry Laboratory-A Panel Discussion 10:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. (Arkansas Ballroom B)

  • Dr. Dennis Matlock, professor, department of chemistry, Harding University, panel moderator
  • Dr. Jeff Taylor, UA-Monticello
  • Dr. Andres Caro, Hendrix College
  • Dr. Brian McFarland, University of the Ozarks
  • Dr. Wesley Stites, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


An open panel discussion, with audience participation, is planned for the purpose of addressing selected issues and challenges for teaching the undergraduate biochemistry laboratory. Topics will include equipment needs, choices of experiments, reagents, scheduling, and other matters.


Career Workshop Panelists:


  1. Jim Graham, Pharmacist. Owner of Corner Stone Pharmacy, Bella Vista, AR
  2. Robyn Goforth, Chief Scientific Officer, BiologicsMD, Inc.
  3. Anna Washburn, Projects Coordinator, SFC Fluidics, LLC.
  4. David Paul, Assoc. Professor of Analytical Chemistry, U of A, Fayetteville.
  5. Erica Estes-Beard, Assoc. Director, Career Development Center, U of A. Fayetteville.