December 14, 2010 | LaGuardia Community College
Long Island City, NY—Four LaGuardia Community College students received top awards for their poster presentations based on their scientific research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.
Taking top honors in a national competition, which attracted over 2,000 community and senior college students, were Wendkuune Zinkone, Andres Perez, Layla Quinones and Laura Aguilera.
“Our students were competing against science students from hundreds of colleges around the nation,” said Professor Clara Wu. “They were successful on that national stage because they had conducted competitive, original research and effectively presented it to the audience and judges there.”
To capture the top prize, the students had to present to the judges a logical hypothesis, a thorough explanation of their choice of methods, substantial amounts of high quality data and a reasonable conclusion that was strongly supported with evidence.
Wendkuune described her research on how sex hormones influence macrophages’ response to infectious diseases. Andres explained his research on the neural basis of vocal learning in songbirds, which can help researchers gain insight into how human babies learn language. And Layla and Laura took the judges through their study on Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare disease that results in fragile bones.
Layla and Laura explained that performing their research at the Hospital for Special Surgery set their work apart from their competitors. “While other students did their research in academic institutions, we did ours at a facility where we worked with top-notch machines that provided us with specific data,” said Laura. “And to top it off our work will be published because it will make a substantial contribution to the treatment of this bone disease.”
“The reason our presentation went so well was because of the significance of the research,” added Layla. “We captivated the judges with the amazing results of the data that will be useful to physicians who treat patients with this disease.”
Wendkunne said that she also impressed the judges with the way she clearly explained her very complex research project on macrophages. “One of the judges told me that she wants to see me next year so that I can give her an update on my research,” she said.
The four research scholars are participants in LaGuardia’s NIH-Bridges program, which, since 1993, has been encouraging under-represented minority students who are interested in the sciences to pursue a career in the sciences. Under the comprehensive program, students engage in challenging hands-on, faculty-supervised research in fields of biology, chemistry, behavioral sciences, mathematics and bioengineering.
Andres plans on pursuing a MD/Ph.D. in neuroscience. With those credentials he is planning on doing research on people with psychotic conditions. “I would like to find ways where people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders will be able to function in society,” he said. “I believe that I can apply the research I am doing on songbird communication with how to reach people with mental illness.”
“For the past 17 years, LaGuardia science faculty have been successful in presenting the world of medical and basic sciences to promising science students and leading them to a degree and, for many, a career in their field of study,” said Peter Katopes, the Interim President. “These students’ achievements are a true testament to LaGuardia faculty’s commitment to our students.”
ABRCMS, established in 2001, is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavior students, including mathematics. Its goal is to encourage undergraduate, post baccalaureate and graduate underrepresented-minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, including mathematics.
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Located in Long Island City, Queens in New York City, LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Founded in 1971, the College is recognized as an innovator in educating students who are under prepared for college work and/or are not primary English speakers. A catalyst for development in western Queens and beyond, LaGuardia serves New Yorkers and immigrants from 153 countries through over 50 majors and certificate programs, enabling career advancement and transfer to four-year colleges at twice the national average. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.