Students earn top awards in Puerto Rico

September 27, 2013 – Beaches, palm trees and ocean breezes did not stop Fort Valley State University students from showing off their research and presentation skills to students and faculty from across the United States.

From Sept. 12-14, 12 FVSU students traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to participate in the 2013 Ana G. Mendez University System (AGMUS) Research Symposium at the Universidad Metropolitan. The students were among 350 undergraduate and graduate students representing 22 institutions.

During the conference, students presented poster and oral presentations to judges. TwoFVSU students earned top awards.

Jamil Baskett, a 22-year-old senior plant-science biotechnology major, won first place in the environmental science category for his poster presentation about onion bulbs. His research may help to provide onion farmers with efficient disease management practices.  Baskett said the opportunity to present in Puerto Rico has and will continue to help him in his future endeavors.

“Presenting at this conference reassured me that I can relay complicated information in a simple format,” Baskett explained. He said the conference has made him more comfortable speaking in front of large groups which will be helpful when he attends graduate school.

Derrick Smith, a junior plant science biotechnology major won first place in the biology category for his poster presentation.  “It felt awesome to win this award,” said the Macon native.  Smith said this achievement gives him confidence towards an exciting career as a principal investigator of a research lab.

Dr. Sarwan Dhir, biotechnology professor and director of FVSU’s Center for Biotechnology, said his students performed exceptionally. “We are so proud of our students,” Dhir said. “They did the best we could ever hope for. They were so smooth you would have thought they were graduate students. They are proof that if students are challenged, they can accomplish much. Given guidance, our students are willing and able to do extraordinary things. It’s even better when their work is recognized by judges from other schools.”

For more information about the biotechnology program at FVSU, contact Dhir at (478) 825-6887 or send an e-mail to

*Below is a list of all the FVSU students who attended the AGMUS Research Symposium, along with the name of the university where each student conducted research and the style of presentation.

·         Jamil Baskett, senior, plant science biotechnology major, poster presentation – environmental sciences

·         Unique Gupton, junior, biology major at St. Augustine’s University oral presentation – biological sciences

·         Evan Hayes, senior, veterinary science major, poster presentation-biology

·         Clarence Hicks, junior, plant science biotechnology major , poster presentation – environmental sciences

·         Ashley Norris, senior, plant science biotechnology major, oral presentation – biological sciences

·         Jasmine Scott, senior, plant science biotechnology major, oral presentation – environmental sciences

·          Derrick Smith, junior, plant science biotechnology major, poster presentation – biology

·         Alicia Williams, research assistant ,graduate oral presentation – biological sciences

·         Derrick Williams, Jr., senior, biology major, St. Augustine’s University, oral presentation – environmental sciences

·         Milton Williams, senior, plant science biotechnology major, oral presentation – biological sciences

·         Ashley S. Casiano, sophomore, University of Puerto Rico, 2013 FVSU National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) participant, poster presentation- biology

·         Jorge L. Muriel Mundo, Universidad del Este, 2013 FVSU NSF REU participant, sophomore, poster presentation- biology

·         Key’erra Rozier, senior, plant science biotechnology major, participant and observer

·         Professor Seema Dhir, assistant professor, FVSU Department of Biology, biotechnology workshop presenter


Editors Note: This is the first time that Dr. Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, president of FVSU, attended the conference. He was a keynote speaker who spoke to students about undergraduate research, professional career advancement and job placement.



FVSU Agricultural Communications Department
(478) 825-6345