Eight MC students granted summer research scholarships

Eight MC students granted summer research scholarships

April 22, 2015

Eight Maryville College students have been granted a total of more than $40,000 through the Appalachian College Association's Ledford Scholarship to fund summer research for their Senior Studies.

"This year's number of successful Ledford Scholarship applicants speaks to the high value Maryville College places on undergraduate research. These students, in the summer between their junior and senior years, are well-prepared for what are more typically graduate-level research experiences," said Dr. Barbara Wells, vice president and dean of the College.

No other college or university received more scholarships this year, and the individual scholarships range from $4,400 to $6,120. The students will present the outcomes of their research on Oct. 3, 2015, in Kingsport, Tenn.

"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.

Collaboration opportunities

Biochemistry major Parker Dryja '16 said he feels MC students are "lucky to have access to generous grants such as the Ledford Scholarship that enable us to pursue rigorous projects."

Dryja normally works during the summer, and the Ledford Scholarship will enable him to focus on doing research in conjunction with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

He said he's excited to "aid in a large, ongoing project" which can "possibly find a way to make nuclear energy more environmentally friendly."

Dr. Nathan Duncan, assistant professor of chemistry, supervises the project Dryja is working on alongside fellow biochemistry major Cody Kidd '16.

According to Duncan, the grants are instrumental in helping students move forward their research projects. In most cases, he said, "students don't have the time or resources to spend an entire summer working on their thesis research."

Stringent guidelines

The Appalachian College Association's Ledford Scholarship seeks to make possible summer research requiring laboratory and field work, interviews, analysis of special collections and/or participant observation. It is open to students who originate from the Appalachian region.

The student's proposed project must be endorsed by a faculty mentor and hold up to a critical selection process.

Dr. Dave Unger, assistant professor of biology, said Maryville College students' ability to produce such proposals are honed through rigorous preparation.

He is working with Allison Peeler '16, a biology major whose research project is the "analysis of parasite load and possible cross contamination of equines exposed to persistent manure spreading."

Additionally he is working with Thomas Moore '17, a biology major researching the impact of controlled burning techniques on Gopher Tortoise survival and burrow occupancy in Cumberland Island National Park, Georgia.

"All of my students work very hard to develop projects that are based on clear objectives and outcomes," Unger said. "Their projects follow the scientific method, can be completed in a reasonable amount of time and deliver sound scientific results."

On-going research

In some cases, this year's Ledford Scholarship recipients are continuing research started by Maryville College students before them.

Bethany Evans '16, a chemistry major, will test water quality and stream health in the Maryville College Woods and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"My project is based on a biology thesis from a few years ago that looked at biodiversity in the Maryville College Woods," she said. "I'm going to test the water and soil from various areas of the woods to determine if there are more pollutants in areas of the woods that present less biodiversity."

Similarly, biochemistry major Brandon Denney '16 and biopharmaceutical sciences major Caitlin Jennings '16 will expand on research done in the Maryville College Woods by Ravyn Thompson '15, who held a Ledford Scholarship last year.

Thompson, Jennings and Denney all chose to focus on the biological activity of compounds found in English Ivy growing in the College Woods.

Interdisciplinary work

Although Camilla Loggins '16 is a biology major, her interest in pursuing cross-disciplinary studies in the field of sexual health led her to work with Dr. Karen Beale, associate professor of psychology.

Loggins will research the effect of sexual guilt on married, religious women between the ages of 18 and 40 years.

"I want to discover if  sex education decreases sexual guilt and improves relationship satisfaction," she said. "The Ledford Scholarship money will go towards collection of data, preparation of the sex education curriculum, travel and conference presentation of the research."

By Gerhard Schneibel, News and New Media Writer


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the 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 College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,146.