PC student researchers recognized at annual SC INBRE Symposium

PC student researchers recognized at annual SC INBRE Symposium

Presbyterian College faculty and students recently joined members of the SC INBRE network and its outreach institutions to present their research at the 11th SC INBRE Science Symposium.

The PC group, which included more than a dozen participants, attended the symposium held at the University of South Carolina in January.

Students Ricardo Hernandez and Kobie Kirven, who both study computational biology, were among those recognized during the annual event. Hernandez was chosen to provide a “3-minute madness” podium presentation, and Kirven won the student poster competition in bioinformatics.

Biology professor Dr. Stuart Gordon called the students’ accomplishments gratifying for faculty, noting the symposium allows students to hear what their peers at other institutions are doing and compare experiences.

“They also get the value of explaining their research to experts in their field and getting their feedback on how to proceed,” Gordon said. “They really get a sense of confidence to be able to explain what they did at a level that the experts will be asking about.”

Gordon advised Kirven on his research topic, “A strategy for De Novo Assembly of a Bacterial Genome Using Opensource Software.”

In explaining the research, Gordan said, “when you sequence genomes, you do it in short sections, and then you have to put those pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s called genome assembly. He (Kobie) was looking at different ways to assemble bacterial genomes.”

Hernandez’s research topic, “Genome Discrimination via the Higuchi Method,” with faculty adviser Dr. James Wanliss, involves using ideas from statistical physics to search for patterns in DNA and using those patterns to distinguish different bacteria organisms.

“It is wonderful that our close-knit community allows students at PC to do multidisciplinary work,” said Wanliss, a physics professor. “In Ricardo’s case, he has leveraged his interests to use fascinating ideas from condensed matter and statistical physics and applied them to genomic research.”

Hernandez, a senior biochemistry and computational biology major, is currently pursuing graduate school like Kirven. He’d taken more math than the average biology student when he decided to look at the computational biology major after a recommendation from Gordon.

“I really like it,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t realize all of the things you could do on your computer related to biology. I think it’s great. I think it’s the future. I think knowing how to deal with data and knowing a little bit of coding is needed for everything. I love it, and I’m using it right now to compliment my biochemistry research.”

PC is among 10 primarily undergraduate institutions in the SC INBRE network, which funds research presented at the symposium. Visit /academics for more on the majors and minors offered at PC.