Category: CMS-Biology

Numerous Faculty Receive EPSCoR and OK-INBRE Grants

As part of his collaboration with Oklahoma State University, Dr. Chad King has received a subaward from Oklahoma NSF EPSCoR, receiving an overall grade of “Outstanding” for the proposal. As a result, Dr. King’s team will receive $15,000 to “identify the future pattern of water quantity and quality in the Upper Little River Watershed (ULRW) under the impacts of changed climate conditions and intensified land disturbances.”

March was a busy time for faculty seeking funding for biomedical programs at UCO. One of the university’s most important partners, the Oklahoma IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (OK-INBRE), recently contributed vital grant monies to UCO faculty to further enhance the statewide research infrastructure and biomedical research capacity. Recently, four UCO faculty have received new Summer Mentoring and Research Training (SMaRT) grants from the OK-INBRE program. Dr. Christopher Goodchild will receive $5,985 for his project titled “Transcriptional Regulation of Chick Embryo Cardiac Morphogenesis” to assess the potential for adverse developmental outcomes in chicks from embryonic exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Dr. Mohammad Hossan will receive $5,992 for this project titled “Hemolysis and Thrombogenicity Studies of PCL Flow Diverters” to design and develop bioresorbable flow diverters that can control aneurysm specific hemodynamic parameters and degrade after insertion into the body when they complete dissolving aneurysms. Dr. Morshed Khandaker will receive $6,000 for his project titled “Measurement of Interface Failure Strength Between Titanium and Bone” to design, develop and characterize a tibial interlocking nail system for an engineered 3D-printed large bone defect model. Dr. Nikki Seagraves will receive $5,998 for her project titled “Assessing the Effect of Phenylalanine Neural Crest Cell Differentiation” to improve the current understanding of how phenylalanine causes craniofacial deformities by examining the effects of phenylalanine on chondrocyte differentiation by O9-1 mouse cranial neural crest cells.

Two faculty received Equipment grants from OK-INBRE as well. Dr. Abdellah Ait-Moussa was awarded $24,539 to purchase a desktop extrusion-based bioprinter manufactured by CELLINK for use in multi-disciplinary biomedical research and education. This bioprinter is designed to fabricate tissue structures that contain cells blended with extracellular matrix. Dr. Mohammad Hossan will receive $24,995 to acquire a Cellometer Spectrum image cytometry system to count and analyze primary cells from peripheral blood, cord blood, bone marrow, and other complex samples including regular cells in cell media, surface markers and other cell-based assays.

Drs. Sanjeewa Gamagedara and Hari Kotturi both won Summer Research Opportunity (ROA) grants from OK-INBRE. Dr. Gamagedara will receive $7,480 to identify and characterize allergens proteins from two most abundant grass species in Oklahoma. He will conduct this research at the University of Oklahoma Mass Spectrometry, Proteomics & Metabolomics (MSPM) Core Facility in Norman. Dr. Kotturi will receive $12,228 to purify UCO’s high-titer lysates using ultracentrifuges and remove Lipopolysaccharides from high-titer lysates in labs located at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, therefore helping produce Phage-incorporated PCL nanofibers with much better antimicrobial properties.

Congratulations to each of the faculty for their successful pursuit of external funding for important science projects here at UCO. More OK-INBRE award announcements are expected soon.

Two CMS Faculty Receive a Mathematics Education Grant

Two professors in our college recently received a Mathematics Association of America grant totaling $29,502 for mathematics education.

Dr. Emily Hendryx, Assistant Professor of Mathematics & Statistics, and Dr. Matthew Parks, Assistant Professor of Biology, will receive $29,502 courtesy of the Mathematics Association of America. Their project, “Multiple Aspects of a Single-use Problem: Applying Mathematics to Understand Consumer Litter Distribution along Metropolitan Waterways,” will provide students with an opportunity to get hands-on experience in applying mathematics and statistics to the real-world problem of consumer litter accumulation along local streams. In their 7-week program, students will not only develop mathematical models and perform statistical analyses based on local litter data, but they will also participate in the design and implementation of the data-collection process. Students will therefore gain first-hand experience in experiment design, fieldwork, data wrangling, basic programming skills, statistical analyses, and mathematical modeling through differential equations.

Both professors wish to thank the Mathematics Association of America for its generosity.

Oklahoma Academy of Sciences Technical Meeting at East Central University in Ada, OK

The College of Mathematics and Science had several undergraduate and graduate students attend and present at the Oklahoma Academy of Sciences Technical Meeting at East Central University in Ada, OK. OAS holds annual technical meetings, field meetings, and, until recently, junior academy meetings. The purpose of the Academy is to stimulate scientific research in Oklahoma.

CMS had one Outstanding Undergraduate Oral Presentation winner at the 110th Technical Meeting of the Oklahoma Academy of Science. Sidra Jawaid won in the Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science section with her abstract titled “IDENTIFYING CRITICAL HIGHER-ORDER INTERACTIONS IN COMPLEX NETWORKS”.

Dr. David Bass has been involved in OAS since 1985 and has served in many leadership roles including president in 2000, and as the Executive Director for 20 years.  When asked what the value of OAS as a forum is, Dr. Bass said, “The technical meeting is a great venue for students to attend. Students have opportunities to listen to presentations by professionals and learn how these talks are conducted. Students also have an opportunity to present their own research findings in a low-key, friendly environment. It is also noteworthy that, as students, many faculty gave their first research talk at a state academy meeting.”

A UCO Senior majoring in Biomedical Sciences, Hallum Ewbank, presented her research this fall. When looking back at her experience she said “I really enjoyed getting to share my research and receive support and feedback from other students and professors. It was very encouraging to see others excited to hear about what I was doing and I gained valuable ideas for changes to make in the future. Additionally, it was a great way to hear about what others are researching in many different fields.” Professor Christopher Goodchild responded by stating, “The greatest accomplishment as a professor is seeing my students succeed.”

Dr. Chad King will continue to send his students to OAS stating that “This venue is a fantastic place for students who are new to research, to present their research findings and work on their science communication skills. This was the case for my research student, Valeria, who started in my research lab during Summer 2021. The research experience and OAS Technical Meeting has motivated her to pursue funding through the UCO RCSA grant program to answer a research question that she has fully developed on her own!”

Central has seven faculty members involved in the Executive Council of OAS including Dr. Benjamin Tayo, Dr. Brad Watkins, Dr. Nesreen Alsbou, Dr. Gang Xu, Dr. Mehmet Aktas, Dr. Nikki Seagraves, and Dr. David Bass.

For more information about the Oklahoma Academy of Science visit its website at

Editor’s Note: See the full list of winners from the 110th Technical Meeting of the Oklahoma Academy of Science Collegiate Academy awards (2021).

Students Conduct Research on UCO’s Mediterranean Geckos

During the early surge of undergraduate research and transformative learning at UCO, we conducted a study of Mediterranean Geckos for which the data were collected by undergraduate students as part of a class project. For six consecutive Spring Semesters (2012-2017) students in General Biology for Majors – Principles (BIO 1204) conducted nightly censuses of Howell Hall, recording the presence of geckos on the walls of the building. Students were responsible for scheduling and conducting censuses, making and printing datasheets, entering and analyzing census data, collecting temperature data, and writing a report every year summarizing the data.

The original goal of the study was to document the date of spring emergence from hibernation. We assumed geckos hibernated during winter, because every other lizard species in Oklahoma hibernates. However, students made an interesting discovery during our study – geckos at UCO are active all winter. Geckos were active on the outside walls of Howell Hall on 343 of 391 censuses (88%), including 13 of 31 censuses (42%) when ambient temperatures were 0oC (freezing) or lower. It seems clear that this activity could not be sustained unless geckos were moving in and out of the building, using heat produced by humans to avoid the metabolic challenges of hibernation.

We recently published a manuscript about the study:
Stone, P. A., H. M. Marinoni, S. Laverty, and A. M. Fenwick. 2021. Winter activity in a northern population of Mediterranean Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 16:405-411.

Students were enthusiastic about the project, especially censusing geckos. A total of 193 students participated, and eventually, one determined student, Hillary Marinoni, spearheaded the effort to publish.

Biology Alumna featured in Association of American Medical Colleges Students and Residents Website

Christiana Obioma, a 2018 Biology-Biomedical Sciences graduate and current student at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, is featured in the online “Anatomy of an Applicant” series of the Association of American Medical Colleges. While at UCO, Christiana worked with Dr. Caroline Bentley, health professions advisor and associate professor of biology, to take the appropriate courses to fulfill medical school pre-requisites. She enlisted in the Army during her junior year, taking two semesters off while training to become an emergency medical technician. During her senior year, Christiana participated in a research project on wound healing with Dr. Melville Vaughan, professor of biology, and presented her research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation conference (OK-LSAMP). Christiana was named the Outstanding Biology Senior in 2018 and graduated cum laude.

Read more about Christana’s journey on the AAMC Students and Residents website, Compassionate Caregiver to Military Medic: Christiana’s Path to Medical School.

Dr. Christopher Butler Receives Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Grant

Dr. Christopher Butler, professor of biology, has received a four-year $332,100 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. His project, “Comparing detectability and efficiency of multiple methods for surveying rails,” will improve detection rates of Black Rail and King Rail species on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The specific objectives of the project are: to conduct present-absence surveys using multiple approaches that include both detection and occupancy rates for rail species; evaluate whether FLIR-equipped (thermal) UAVs may be used to detect multiple rail species; refine a survey technique for long-term monitoring that, afterward, might be continued by TPWD staff for various rail species; and assess potential habitat associations that relate back to management practices conducted on state and federal lands.