For most young students, science fairs were the bane of their existence. Even for those who love science, like University biological sciences junior Joselyn Knowling, they’re not fun. Despite this, Knowling brought one of her research projects to a science fair of sorts and won.

Knowling, an undergraduate student researcher for Samithamby Jeyaseelan in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, was awarded for being ranked in the top 5 percent of her category for her poster at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. 

Knowling entered her poster, titled “Both Interleukin (IL)-1a and IL-b Contribute to Host Protection Against Pulmonary Klebsiella Pneumoniae Infection,” in three competitions this past fall. In addition to her success at ABRCMS, she took first place at the Phi Zeta competition at the LSU Veterinary School and the top prize for the level one category at the 2016 LSU Undergraduate Research Conference. 

In particular, Knowling said she focused on Klebsiella Pneumoniae, a form of pneumonia that is frequent in hospitals and kills around one million people in the United States each year, Knowling said. 

The project’s inspiration, Knowling said, partly came from the idea that lung diseases affect everyone, and research is necessary to understand and treat lung diseases. 

What we’re looking at are diseases that affect everybody… you can have all the money in the world or you can be homeless… and you’re still going to be affected by a lung disease. We’re trying to look at diseases that everyone is affected by, no matter what your socioeconomic status is, your race or your gender,” Knowling said. 

Knowling said her three judges were impressed with the depth of her project and how she was able to complete the research in less than a year’s time. 

Also successful at ABRCMS was BRCC’s Caitlin Cox, who is a part of the National Institutes of Health Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program and worked with professor Janna Oetting of the communication sciences and disorder program. Cox was one of eight award recipients for outstanding community college student research. 

ABRCMS, a conference held in Tampa, Florida specifically for minority students, gives student researchers opportunities to learn about graduate school, fellowships, and internships from institutions like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 1,800 students from over 350 colleges and universities attend ABRCMS to present their research and learn more about these opportunities and see other student’s work.

Conferences like ABRCMS, Knowling said, are important for minority students who hope to go into STEM fields, as there is still little minority representation. As of 2015, U.S. News reported black and Latino workers make up only 15 percent of the computing-based workforce and 12 percent of the engineering workforce. Women make up only 24 percent of the engineering workforce. 

“You have more programs reaching out for minorities, but you still don’t have the numbers,” Knowling said. 

Knowling added that while some minorities may enter the STEM field, many still don’t participate in research as they are not presented with the opportunities to do so. She hopes conferences like ABRCMSwill improve this gap. 

When she finishes her undergraduate degree, Knowling plans to enter a dual MD and PhD program that would enable her to continue to research. 

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