FVSU student researchers win big at ERN Conference

March 13, 2015 – Two Fort Valley State University students earned top awards at one of the largest conferences for student researchers in the country. Frank Ivey, a senior biology student, and Brandon Beaty, a senior plant science biotechnology major, earned two first place wins at the Emerging Researcher National Conference recently in Washington D.C. on Feb. 19-21.

The ERN Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is sponsored by several agencies that include the American Association for the Advancement in Science (AAA), Education and Human Resources Programs (EHR) and the National Science Foundation Division of Human Resource Development (HRD) within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR). The conference was created for higher education undergraduate and graduate students who participate in NSF-HRD Unit programs, including underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities.

The conference activities involve strategies for applying and succeeding in graduate programs and finding funding for graduate program.

This past summer, the Ivey and Beaty conducted research at the University of Florida under the supervision of Dr. Harry J. Klee, a professor and researcher in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program at the University of Florida. Klee is one of the nation’s top researchers in the area of tomato volatiles which are chemicals and genetic compounds that make up the flavor of fruits and vegetables. The FVSU pair identified distinct volatiles and how they interact with biochemical compounds in the fruit, and affected its taste, texture and juiciness.

Ivey, a Warrenton, Ga. native, earned a first-place prize in the area of Ecology and Earth Sciences for his poster presentation.

“I was kind of nervous at first,” Ivey said. “But, this research was something that I did all summer, so I became comfortable with it.”

Besides earning a first-place prize, he also made personal and professional connections.

“It was exciting to meet new people from different schools all over the nation, and talk about horticulture,” he said. “There was a diverse amount of research, and I learned form a lot of students.” Ivey also managed to make a personal and professional contact with a researcher at the University of Washington.

Beaty, a Corpus Christi, Tex. native, earned a first-place prize for his oral presentation in the area of plant science, environmental science.

“I was nervous, and up the few nights before giving my speech,” he said. Beaty delivered a PowerPoint presentation on tomato volatiles before a group that included more than 600 schools. “I won first place in my category, plant science, environmental and biological sciences, and it was a power point presentation. The very last night was the awards ceremony and I was told that I did good and everything, when I speak and do a presentation I think do horrible every time, but this time, I felt good about it. I was perfectly in my time, I didn’t ramble or anything.

The two students received certificates for their win and a monetary prize.

Dr. Klee, the research professor who worked with the two FVSU students this summer, said that he and his team are proud of their wins.

“[Our team] is extremely happy about these honors,” Klee said. “Both students have made a very significant contribution to our tomato flavor program in the time they spent at University of Florida.”

Ivey had this advice for students that attend huge conferences like the ERN.

“I would just say figure out early on what you want to do and go forward,” he said. “Network and make contacts with people in the area you want to pursue.”

Beaty had this advice for aspiring scientists.

“Be passionate, honestly, the biggest key to these kind of events is loving what you do, or being so enthusiastic that all of the research is pouring out of you.”

Dr. Sarwan Dhir, professor of biotechnology and director of FVSU’s Center for Biotechnology said seeing our students present their research is always a rewarding experience. “Conducting and presenting research at the undergraduate level is vital to the success of students in graduate or professional school. I am very proud of each of our students and will continue to encourage them in their academic careers,” Dhir said.

FVSU students and administrators that attended the conference:

  1. Brandon Beaty
  2. Frank Ivey
  3. D’ Amber Jones
  4. Dominique Lacey
  5. Ashley Norris
  6. Gabrielle Van Genderren
  7. Kelli Russell
  8. Andrea Mathis
  9. Lillian Oglesby
  10. Dr. Sarwan Dhir
  11. Dr. Melinda Davis
  12. Prof. Seema Dhir
  13. Dr. Dawit Aberra
  14. Dr. Masoud Naghedolfeizi (Feizi)