Archive for the ‘Post’ Category

Chemistry Grad Student Wins 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition

Posted on: December 21st, 2021 by nhammer

WontorAnd the winner is … Kendall Wontor! This year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) overall winner is Kendall Wontor, a doctoral student in chemistry. Wontor’s research focuses on microplastics in oysters, with several different aspects to her overall research project.

Wontor spent most of her childhood in Texas, but most recently lived in Hawaii before relocating to Mississippi. Her time in Hawaii sparked her interest in microplastics.

“My favorite things to do were going to the beach and sailing,” said Wontor. “Whenever I would do either, it was pretty common to see small pieces of plastic in the sand and out in the ocean being tossed around in the waves. As a chemist, that really got me interested in the breakdown process of plastics and the problem of microplastic pollution.”

“Microplastics are a diverse suite of contaminants with different polymers, additives, sizes and morphologies,” explained Wontor’s advisor Dr. James Cizdziel, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and coordinator of forensic chemistry. “Microplastics can also attract other pollutants, such as heavy metals, potentially introducing them into the food chain as the plastic is caught on gills or mistaken for prey,” he added.

The first aspect of Wontor’s research is focused on developing new methods to extract microplastics from oyster tissue, and this was the main point of her 3MT presentation. An example of an extraction method is sonication. “By developing and validating this extraction method, I hope to increase the analysis speed and sustainability of microplastics research,” said Wontor.

In the second aspect of her research, Wontor uses chemical digestion to analyze oysters from ten sites across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Here, Wontor is looking for any differences in the numbers, sizes, shapes, and polymer types of microplastics present in the oysters from the different sites. Wontor is also dissecting the larger oysters found to see if the microplastics are localizing in specific tissues, such as the gills, mantle, digestive system, or abductor muscle/heart.

“Microplastics are abundant in the Mississippi River and Mississippi Sound. Oysters are exposed to these small plastic particles. This is a concern because oysters are filter-feeders and the microplastics may interfere with oyster biology. Oysters are a foundational species in the Gulf and an economic resource to the region,” explained Dr. Cizdziel.

Wontor is no stranger to presenting her research. She presented “Microplastics in Oysters from the Mississippi Sound” at the National Environmental Monitoring Conference in a special session on “Analyzing Microplastics in the Environment: Striving to Better Assess Occurrence, Fate and Effects.”

Wontor will represent the UM Grad School at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools’ 3MT competition in North Carolina in February 2022.

Chemistry Majors Represent at SURC 2020

Posted on: January 26th, 2020 by nhammer

Congratulations Ivy Li, William Meador, Genevieve Verville, and Michael Valencia for receiving awards at SURC 2020 on January 25th, 2020 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference is a unique opportunity for students in the SouthEastern region to present their undergraduate research work to other students and faculty members. Both oral and poster presentations are given. Students also network with graduate school recruiters and meet other students and faculty members engaged in chemistry research. Prizes are given for the best posters and oral presentations. The conference allows students to present their work in a friendly environment and obtain feedback and ideas related to their work.

3 Honors Freshman Scholars are Chemistry Majors

Posted on: September 11th, 2019 by nhammer

Douglass Sullivan-González (right), dean of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, welcomes the 2019 cohort of freshmen scholars, including (front row, from left) Tristan Tran, Jilkiah Bryant, Anastasia Jones-Burdick, Gracie Bush, Vivienne McCracken, Ethan Lambert and Addison Pratt and (back row) Julianna French, Maren McSparin, Eva Kiparizoska, Peter Nguyen and Luke Davis. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Seventeen freshmen in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi have been awarded a total of $130,750 from four of the university’s most distinguished scholarship programs.

Five of the freshmen earned McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships, six were recipients of Doris Raymond Honors Scholarships, three were awarded Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships and three were honored with Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships.

“Each year, a new group of high-performing students distinguish themselves to join the ranks of our SMBHC scholarship holders,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, Honors College dean.

“We are extremely proud of this year’s freshman group who already understand the demands of what it means to be ‘citizen’ and ‘scholar’ in a challenging environment. We anticipate four great years of their involvement in our university community.”

Those students receiving McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships are:

  • Jilkiah La’Destinee Bryant, of Macon
  • Gracie Bush, of Long Beach
  • Eva Kiparizoska, of Laurel
  • Indu Priya Nandula ,of Cleveland
  • Kaylee Nicole Sims, of Madison

Bryant is a graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, where she was a Golden Triangle Area Scholar, MSMS Ambassador, 4-H Ambassador and Northeast Mississippi Student Leadership Conference Scholar. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Kiparizoska is a graduate of West Jones Junior-Senior High School. She won the AP Biology Award, first place in advertising design at the State Beta Convention, Spanish III Award and Algebra III Certificate. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Those receiving Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships are:

  • Luke Alexander Davis, of Lakeside, California
  • Julianna Grace French, of Malden, Missouri
  • Addison Paige Pratt, of Corinth

French graduated from Malden Hills High School, where she was on the Principal’s Honor Roll, Who’s Who and Academic All-State in volleyball. French is majoring in chemistry.

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