Megan Houston honored with LeQuire Award

Megan Houston honored with LeQuire Award

April 11, 2020

Megan Houston ’20, a biochemistry major from Maryville, Tenn., was presented the distinguished LeQuire Award for the 2019-20 academic year.

Established in 1987 by descendants and friends of Maryville physician Granville Dexter LeQuire and his wife Ellen Brickey LeQuire, the LeQuire Award includes a cash gift to help defray the expenses of applying to medical school and an engraved pewter julep cup.

The LeQuire Award is typically given out during the Academic Awards Ceremony, held every April in the Clayton Center for the Arts; however, the ceremony, along with other campus-sponsored events scheduled through May 31, were cancelled, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, awards are being mailed to the student recipients.

Winners of the LeQuire Award are nominated by faculty members in the College’s Humanities and Natural Sciences divisions.

In the nomination letter for the award, Houston was praised for maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, despite taking numerous difficult 300- and 400-level science courses – and earning grades of A+ in many of those courses, as well as several core/elective classes.

“She has served as Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for several classes and is a highly respected role model within the Division of Natural Sciences,” the nomination letter states.

During her time at Maryville College, she also has taken advantage of the College’s proximity to Blount Memorial Hospital and pursued work as a certified nursing assistant so that she could add practical experience to what she is learning and seeing in classroom lectures and lab assignments.

Houston, a 2016 graduate of Maryville High School, also received the Liberal Arts Award, which recognizes students who earned the highest grade point average in all core courses taken at Maryville College. 

Houston analyzes pharmaceuticals during Notre Dame internship

Last summer, Houston had the opportunity to work with Notre Dame University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, in the laboratory of Dr. Marya Lieberman.

“I worked on their paper analytical device (PAD) project, which is seeking to create a cost-effective, fast method of qualitatively analyzing pharmaceutical quality in the field,” Houston said. “As part of this project, I learned how to design, fabricate and use these devices.”

As part of her research experience, she traveled with a group to Blantyre, Malawi, for two weeks to help train students and staff at the University of Malawi College of Medicine’s College of Pharmacy how to use the PADs to determine if medications are falsified or substandard, she said.

“I was responsible for designing demonstrations and training the students on PAD fabrication using a wax printer,” she said, adding that she also helped calibrate pipettes and troubleshoot the Malawi lab’s High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) system (an analytical technique to separate, identify and quantify components in a mixture). “After returning from Malawi, I worked on using image analysis on one of the colorimetric reactions on the PAD to quantify doxycycline concentration in samples.”

She has continued similar work at Maryville College. The Distributed Pharmaceutical Analysis Lab (DPAL), which was started by the Lieberman lab group at Notre Dame, sends out samples of pharmaceuticals from low- and middle-income countries to institutions in the program for analysis on HPLC. Suspicious samples are reported, checked by Notre Dame, and can then be reported to the appropriate country’s regulatory agencies or the World Health Organization. Maryville College recently joined the program in 2019 and got certified to analyze acetaminophen samples. 

For her Senior Study, Houston attempted to certify that Maryville College’s new HPLC meets DPAL standards. She also analyzed a set of 20 acetaminophen samples from Kenya using HPLC.

With aspirations of becoming a physician, Houston has applied to medical school.

“My research for this internship and for my Senior Study helped me greatly improve my lab technique and presentation skills, both of which would be helpful in medical school and as a physician,” Houston said. “I also got to learn a lot about the process of working with pharmaceutical samples.”

Dr. Mary Turner, professor of chemistry and Houston’s advisor, described Houston as impressive – both as a student and a researcher.

“Megan was already an incredible student when she started this thesis project, but her work with DPAL has given her an opportunity to hone not only her hands-on laboratory skills, but her data analysis and critical thinking skills, as well,” Turner said. “She faced challenges with determination, a positive attitude and a strong work ethic – qualities that will help her as she continues to use her skills to do good in the world.”

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”