Riceville's Ward granted summer research funds

Posted 6/12/18

Three Maryville College students have been granted a total of more than $12,600 through the Appalachian College Association’s Ledford Scholarship to fund summer research projects.Named for Colonel …

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Riceville's Ward granted summer research funds

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Three Maryville College students have been granted a total of more than $12,600 through the Appalachian College Association’s Ledford Scholarship to fund summer research projects.

Named for Colonel Lee B. Ledford, the scholarship program offers financial assistance for students who are enrolled at ACA member institutions and conducting summer research in the fields of laboratory and field work, interviews, analyzing special collections and participant observation.

All of the recipients will utilize the money to fund research associated with their Senior Study project. 

“Undergraduate research has been a distinctive feature of the Maryville College curriculum since 1947, when a two-semester, faculty-supervised independent study was made a graduation requirement of all students,” said Dr. Barbara Wells, vice president and dean of the College. “And this year's number of successful Ledford Scholarship applicants speaks to the high value we place on this type of scholarly work. These students are well-prepared for what are more typically graduate-level research experiences.”

A total of 29 students enrolled at 11 ACA institutions were awarded scholarships. The students will present the outcomes of their research at the annual ACA Summit in September.

 “Each student will be working closely with a faculty mentor this summer,” Wells added. “This arrangement will enable them to continue to develop their research skills. We know from experience that opportunities like these can give students a distinct advantage when they apply for admission to graduate school or health sciences programs.”

Ward to study sTLT-1 protein

Alyssa Ward, a senior chemistry and biology double major from Riceville, Tenn., received a $1,000 Ledford Scholarship to continue research on a protein called sTLT-1 conducted by Maryville College students.

TLT-1 is a protein that is produced by platelets. Previous research by MC students and 2017 Ledford Scholars Morgan Gast ’19 and Victoria Deal ’19 resulted in a breakthrough that involved genetically engineering an antibody that binds to TLT-1. The students conducted the research at the College and in the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras laboratory of Dr. A. Valance Washington, which studies platelets.

“The coagulation of blood is a cascade of interwoven biochemical events,” Ward wrote in her project narrative. “An emerging interest of one piece of this hemostatic pathway has focused in on a protein known as ‘Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells–like transcript-1,’ also known as TLT-1, which is expressed by megakaryocytes and platelets and released into blood as a soluble form (sTLT-1) following platelet activation. Researchers at UPR-Río Piedras have provided evidence that TLT-1 plays a regulatory role in thrombosis and that increased levels of this protein in blood may be an indicator of poor prognosis in certain disease states, such as sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Further research has suggested TLT-1 acts to regulate cells within the innate immune system and inflammatory responses to injuries.

“As research continues to investigate the function of TLT-1 and sTLT-1 in the coagulation cascade, various binding partners of TLT-1 and specifically sTLT-1 are being identified,” Ward continued, adding that Washington’s lab has shown that sTLT-1 binds to fibrinogen – a binding interaction that has been confirmed by research conducted by Maryville College students Boomer Russell ’18 and Lauren Biliter ’18.

Ward’s research will focus on quantifying binding interactions, thermodynamic constants and kinetic binding constants for various coagulant proteins, in complex with TLT-1.

Most of the research, which will contribute to Ward’s Senior Study, will be conducted in a laboratory at Maryville College, under the supervision of Natural Sciences Division Chair and Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Angelia Gibson and Cornerstone Analytical Laboratories President Dr. Mike Goodrich. The Ledford scholarship will aid in the purchase of experiment materials and supplies, such as the coagulant proteins to be investigated. Gibson and Ward also hope the scholarship will allow for the opportunity to conduct research at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, by aiding in instrument user fees cost.

“The project will lead to the development of several biochemical and molecular biology laboratory techniques,” Ward said. “The skill sets that will be established during this undergraduate research opportunity are invaluable in this field of study, and in any future research and laboratory work opportunities.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in its namesake city, which lies between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third-largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th-oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church-USA. Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2017 semester was 1,181.

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