Warrick named 2020 Ledford Scholar

Warrick named 2020 Ledford Scholar

July 6, 2020

Julia Warrick ’21, a senior biochemistry major at Maryville College, has received a Ledford Scholarship from the Appalachian College Association (ACA) to fund summer research.

Named for Colonel Lee B. Ledford, the scholarship program offers financial assistance for summer research projects to undergraduate students enrolled at ACA member institutions. Working closely with a faculty mentor, students engage in significant research projects, supported by program stipend and research reimbursements.

Warrick will utilize the $4,100 scholarship to fund a research project titled “Optimizing three specific assays (heparin agarose binding assay, an ELISA-like heparin binding assay, and an atomic force microscopy assay) to evaluate heparin binding by specific proteins.” The research project is part of her Senior Study.

One of the distinctive features of a Maryville education, the Senior Study requirement calls for students to complete a two-semester research and writing project that is guided by a faculty supervisor. According to the College’s catalog, the Senior Study program “facilitates the scholarship of discovery within the major field and integrates those methods with the educational goals fostered through the Maryville Curriculum.”

“I’m pleased and proud that the Appalachian College Association awarded a Ledford to one of our students. We’ve received several over the years, in fact. But I’m always grateful for more support,” said Dr. Dan Klingensmith, vice president and dean of the College. “Undergraduate research is at the heart of what we do, because training students for it means training them to be seekers after and producers of knowledge, not simply passive recipients of content. Undergrad research is a great way of learning problem-solving skills and critical thinking – and patience, too! Experience in research at the undergrad level also gives students an advantage in applying to graduate school.”

Warrick’s summer research project focuses on developing and optimizing methods for the study of heparin binding to blood proteins, such as fibrinogen and TLT-1. She will conduct the research in a laboratory at Maryville College, under the supervision of Dr. Angelia Gibson, chair of the Division of Natural Sciences and professor of chemistry.

“Heparin is known to bind to fibrinogen, which is a crucial protein in the process of developing a blood clot,” said Warrick, who is from Cleveland, Tenn. “We are using fibrinogen to optimize methods for heparin binding, in order to determine if other blood proteins bind heparin. These protein-heparin interactions could potentially lead to improved knowledge of anticoagulants, which could lead to the potential reduction of harmful side-effects that are caused by heparin. The blood proteins we are evaluating are also known to largely facilitate coagulation and immune response, thus evaluating their binding properties can contribute to the current understanding of immune response.”

In order to analyze heparin binding, several assays are being conducted throughout the summer research.

“The first is a heparin agarose assay, which will simply determine whether protein binding occurs to heparin immobilized on microscopic beads, by running the samples of proteins following incubation with heparin agarose on an SDS-PAGE gel,” Warrick explained. “We are also developing an ELISA-like assay, which uses heparin immobilized on a 96-well plate, to which we will bind the blood proteins. We can then measure the absorbance and quantitatively analyze the heparin-protein binding. Several other experiments, including assays with fluorescently labeled heparin, as well as kinetics assays, will also be conducted throughout the summer in order to further analyze the interaction of heparin with these blood proteins.”

After graduation, Warrick plans to attend graduate school to pursue further work in biochemistry, in order to become a biomedical researcher. She said her research is allowing her to gain experience that will prepare her for these next steps.

“The ACA Ledford Scholarship will allow me to gain research experience that will contribute to my understanding of science, as well as my future career,” Warrick said. “This scholarship has provided funding that has allowed me to purchase laboratory equipment that is essential to the completion of my project, that I previously would not have had the funds to purchase. It has also provided funds for equipment and reagents that have raised the quality of my research project, and has allowed me to learn new research techniques that I previously would not have learned.”

A total of 41 students enrolled at 22 ACA institutions were awarded scholarships. Student recipients typically present the outcomes of their research at the annual ACA Summit in the fall; however, a decision has not yet been made about the 2020 conference, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact. If the 2020 conference is cancelled, this year’s Ledford Scholars will be given the option to present at the 2021 conference.

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.”