For the BECUR Conference gallery, please click here.
In its fifth iteration, the Biological, Engineering, and Chemical Undergraduate Research (BECUR) Conference was held throughout the day on Saturday February 22nd, 2014 at the Medical Research Building and Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building. At this conference, undergraduate students are able to practice presenting their posters in a semi-professional environment in preparation for national conferences. This year’s BECUR continued the tradition of uniting students from various disciplines in science, providing a forum for knowledge exchange, and celebrating the hard work that undergraduate researchers dedicate to their research.
The planning for this year’s BECUR began back in May 2013 when we first sent out an invitation for Dr. Roy Parker to be this year’s keynote address speaker. We knew of his pioneering work in messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) degradation pathways and were thrilled to learn that he was happy to join us for the conference. Since then, the Biochemistry Club has been building up momentum in preparing for BECUR.
Fast forward through months of planning and advertising, to the day of the event. On the itinerary, BECUR began at 9:00 AM. With 46 poster abstracts submitted to us, a display of forty poster boards spanned both lobby areas and conference rooms. As presenters and visitors alike arrived from 9:00 AM to 9:45 AM, our blue banner, emblazoned with BECUR Conference in white lettering. As the day progressed, the poster sessions A and B were lively. Presenters who were designated in poster session A were asked to be available at their poster during the first hour at 10:00 AM. Those who were designated in poster session B were asked to do the same during the second hour at 11:00 AM. At all times, every presenter was engaging with at least one other person throughout the hour long sessions. Many presenters garnered a group of two to four listeners. During these poster sessions, graduate student judges went around to each presenter in pairs and evaluated their performance based on the ability to answer questions, quality of results, clarity of communication, and overall presentation by the student.
Following the conclusion of the poster sessions, Dr. Parker gave his key note address. Dr. Parker had taken up a faculty position in the Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology here at the University of Arizona. He encouraged the audience to realize that a critical step in a young scientist’s research career is to pick a good question to ask. His question, in particular, was learning about mRNA degradation pathways and what controls transport, localization, and turnover of these messenger molecules. In addition, he encouraged the audience to open new doors to new pathways in one’s research career when new questions arise. In regards to his career, he did not expect to be researching about neurological pathologies and their relationship to mRNA degradation. That is just where his research has taken him. The vast majority of presenters and visitors in the audience found the talk to be very informative and enlightening. In addition to Dr. Parker’s keynote address, the conference highlighted two exceptional undergraduate researchers: Kevin Carlson and Julie Huynh. They both also gave thoughtful PowerPoint presentations that generated many questions from their peers in the audience.
The awards ceremony concluded the conference, naming two winners for chemistry, two winners for biology, and two winners for engineering. These winners received $200 each. In addition, four students were selected to receive $500 ASBMB travel awards. The winners are summarized below:
BECUR 2014 Award Recipients
Engineering ($200 each)
Microfluidic Devices for Isolation and Characterization of Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs)
Evaluating the Extracellular pH of Tumors In Vivo using acidoCEST MRI
Chemistry ($200 each, money donated by S. AZ ACS Chapter)
Simulations of Time-Resolved Two Photon Photoemission using the Optical Bloch Equations
Enzymatic Labeling of DENV
Biochem/MCB/Biosciences ($200 each)
Lkb1 And Mo25 Demonstrate Significant Interaction With Myofilament Proteins
Elimination of PXD101-Resistance in Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma Via Mitotic Checkpoint Activators
ASBMB Travel Awards ($500 each donated by Undergraduate Affiliate Network)
Targeting the Cystine/Glutamate Antiporter System Xc in Cancer-Induced Bone Pain
Proteins as Play-Doh: Evolution may utilize local structural plasticity to alter protein folds
Mucolipidosis type IV protein TRPML1 requirement for lysosome biogenesis/reformation
MYD88 L265P and its Role in Lymphoid Malignancies
High School Award winners ($50 each)
Allison Kath (donated by UAN)
The effects of psychological priming on implicit biases
Sanne Casello (UAN)
Prevention of ALS in Drosophila Melanogaster Model
Tiffany Pham & Bennett Adamson (UAN)
Alkaline Phosphatase: IHC Dephosphoralization for Rapid Cancer Detection
Diego Aubert-Vasquez (S. AZ ACS Chapter)
The Effects of Sodium Lactate on Bacteria Isolated from Sewage
Without a doubt, this year’s BECUR Conference was successful and has been the biggest one yet. Looking towards the future, we will continue to unite undergraduates of various disciplines and recognize their effort and contributions to their laboratories and fields. For 2015, we hope to be even bigger with more presenters, more prizes, and more posters!