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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, June 21, 2024
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Local Experiments Dominate Research Symposium

Young scientists presented the fruits of their labor Saturday at the 10th annual Spring Research Symposium at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Croix Campus.

The university’s Great Hall was crowded with display boards detailing each student’s experiment. At first glance, it looked like a high school science fair, but a quick glance at the experiments’ complex titles dispelled that illusion.

“Mitofusin-2 Protects Renal Epithelial Cells Under Stress” was one such experiment. The presenter, St. Croix native Chinaemere Igwebuike, recently won best oral presentation in genetics for this experiment at the Annual Biomedical Research Symposium for Minority Students in St. Louis.

Dr. Velma Tyson said this type of honor was not uncommon for UVI students, who are encouraged to present their research at competitions in the states.

“It’s very, very, very rare that we do not come home with national awards,” she said.

While the accolades may be national, much of the research was strictly local. Many of the experiments focused on the ecology and biology of local plants. Of the 29 total experiments at the symposium, four of them were on sorrel.

Another experiment researched the viability of traditional Virgin Islands remedies in treating diabetes. The presenter, Melisa Matthias, spent months feeding sour sop tea to generation after generation of nematodes as part of the experiment. It may sound tedious, but Matthias was intrigued, continuing the research even after it was no longer a part of her class work.

“I just wanted to continue it and see how far I could get before graduation,” she said.

In addition to research on local plants, coral reef studies were a popular choice amongst students. Their experiments covered a wide range of topics including lion fish infestation, tracking populations of various sea turtles and fish, and coral reef diseases.

Robert Brewer, who studied the ecology of hybridized coral species, credited the breadth of the research to the quality of the university’s marine biology master’s program. Originally from San Antonio, he said he chose the school because it offered a unique research opportunity.

“I came down here for the master’s program basically because you can be on the reef 24/7,” he said. “You don’t have to get funding and grants to fly down here and do your research.”

Brewer added that he would soon be presenting his research at an international coral reef conference in Australia.

Dr. Tyson was visibly proud of the research done by the students and encouraged people to take a closer look at the work being done at UVI.

“The community needs to know that, although we are a small university, our students are terrific and they compete well on the national level,” she said.

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