Five named Ledford Scholars

Five MC students named Ledford Scholars

July 8, 2016

Five Maryville College students have been granted a total of more than $26,000 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.

A total of 39 students enrolled at 15 ACA institutions were awarded scholarships.

"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 -- two of whom just finished their freshman year -- are well-prepared for what are more typically graduate-level research experiences."

The Ledford Scholarship provides stipends for students at a rate of $8.50/hour ($5,120 max) and an allotment of $1,000 for equipment and travel.

The students will present the outcomes of their research on Oct. 1, 2016, in Kingsport, Tenn., as part of the ACA Summit XIX.

"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."

Burnham studying English ivy

Elizabeth Burnham, a senior biochemistry major and art minor from Thorn Hill, Tenn., was awarded a $6,000 Ledford Scholarship to determine the antioxidant potential of English Ivy (Hedera helix) extracts. The research is a part of her Senior Study.

“I am comparing what, if any, magnitude of antioxidant capacities are present in crude and fractionated extracts of young and mature plants,” she explained. “I will be running data with ORAC and DPPH assays, and potential others for bioactive constituents within the plants.” 

Burnham said that discovering English ivy as a natural source of antioxidants would be beneficial for a number of reasons, which include: the accessibility of the ivy year-round (it’s an evergreen), and its pervasiveness in the United States.

“It would be good to find new ways to use the plant since it exists at the expense of native plants in various regions in the country,” she said.  

Moore receives second Ledford

Earlier this summer, Thomas Moore, a senior biology and environmental studies double-major, traveled to Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia to continue research he began last year as a Ledford Scholar.

“I am researching gopher tortoises, looking at their population dynamics on the island,” Moore explained about his Senior Study. “Population dynamics consist of gender ratios, age class structure and tortoise density. We are also looking at their burrow dynamics, which include the height and width of the entrance of the burrow, how the burrow opening is oriented, temperature outside the burrow vs. temperature inside the burrow, and whether or not there is a nest on the outside of the burrow.”

Moore, who is from Mechanicsville, Va., uses geographic information system (GIS) software to collect and analyze data and make maps of the tortoises inside study locations.

Lanz examines phagocytosis

With her Ledford Scholarship, Shelby Lanz, a senior biochemistry major from Knoxville, Tenn., is conducting research on a project entitled “Fluorescent Microscopic Visualization of Phagocytosis in Tetrahymena pyriformis.”

I am fluorescently staining the actin cytoskeleton of a unicellular ciliate,” she explained. “To do so, I have taken a protocol used to fluorescently stain adherent cultures and modified it so it will work for a suspension culture such as T. pyriformis. To examine phagocytosis (their method of taking up nutrients), I am incubating the cells in India ink for five to 30 minutes, during which they will ingest the India ink, causing phagosomes (food vacuoles) to form. The incubation in India ink occurs prior to staining. I am using lysine-coated slides to help the cells stick so I can examine the results under a microscope with a fluorescent filter.”

Lanz said her modified protocol may become a lab for one of Dr. Jerilyn Swann’s biology course.

“In terms of bigger picture, this study will provide more information about how the actin cytoskeleton changes throughout phagocytosis, which could result in thesis studies about how different things change the process, such as different drugs,” she said.

Two conduct research in Puerto Rico

Two sophomores are conducting research with Dr. Valance Washington at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. Morgan Gast, a biochemistry major from Georgetown, Ohio, and Victoria Deal, a biology major from Huntsville, Ala., are working on a project to genetically engineer an antibody that binds to TLT-1.

“The goals of the project are to splice the genes for the variable heavy and light chains from the TLT-1 scFv to the genes encoding the human IgG1 constant heavy and light, chains respectively,” Gast explained. “My specific role in the project involves restriction mapping DNA molecules. This technique will be important both for splicing the DNA’s, but also for testing various clones to determine if actual splice products are the ones expected.”

Deal is working with polymerase chain reactions (PCR), learning how to design PCR primers and replicating specific DNA segments.

By Karen Beaty Eldridge '94, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications


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 2017 semester is 1,181.