Three LaGuardia Community College Students Won First Prize in a National Science Poster Competition

December 15, 2011 | LaGuardia Community College

Long Island City, NY—Three LaGuardia Community College students captured first prize in a national science poster competition for minority students.

At the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), Bita Adabi was awarded for her study on nanoshells, a class of nanoparticles in which a thin shell of gold or silver is deposited on an insulating core material; Omid Adabi was awarded for her research on the effects of female sex hormones on the response of marcophages, those white blood cells that ingest foreign materials, to infection and oxidative stress; and Laura Aguilera received top honors for her work on osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disease that predominantly affects bones.

ABRCMS, which is designed to encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the sciences, is the largest professional conference for biomedical, behavioral science and mathematics students. Attending this year’s conference were some 4,000 students, faculty, program directors and administrators who represented over 700 college and universities.  Over 1,400 students participated in the poster and oral presentations in 12 disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, including mathematics.

“At LaGuardia, we encourage our students to take on academic challenges, and Bita, Omid and Laura not only took on the challenge by engaging in serious scientific research but were able to present their work at a national conference in a most impressive and convincing way,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College.  “Sharing this award with the students, are the dedicated professors and research advisors who guided them through their research.”

The three student researchers and their faculty mentors are participants in the College’s highly successful NIH-funded Bridges to the Future Program.  This program allows minority students to engage in challenging, hands-on research in the fields of biology, chemistry, behavioral sciences, mathematics and bioengineering. 

“It is our mission to raise the aspirations of low-income, first-generation, minority students and to assist them to achieve their goals,” said Dr. Hendrick Delcham, a mathematics professor who oversees the program’s day-to-day operation. 

The program has had startling results.  Since the establishment of the program in 1993, the program has serviced 352 students.  Among that group, 93% transferred to a four-year institution. 

In Bita’s research, she used a technique called reflectometry to study the optical properties of gold nanoshells deposited as a thin film on a substrate.  Her initial results show that nanoshells have different optical behavior from normal sized gold particles 

Looking at a female sex hormone, Omid’s research results show that an increased amount of High-mobility group box 1 protein, a DNA-binding protein that plays a critical role in regulating gene transcription, is harmful for the cells and impair the functions of macrophages.

The goal of Laura’s research was to compare the organization of fragile and normal bone tissue to identify key differences.  “Fragile bone due to various genetic defects was compared so that specific therapies may be designed to prevent non-traumatic fractures,” she said.

Each of the students received high marks from their research advisors for their commitment and hard work.  Professor Dionne Miller, Bita’s mentor, said she was impressed by her enthusiasm for, and engagement with, her research.  Kudos to Omid came from Professor Clarence Chan who described him as a diligent student with a deep love of the medical science.  And Professor Paul West strongly believes that Laura, “a rare undergraduate researcher,” has far more to contribute to the world of academia.

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.

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