UTSA College of Sciences hosted research conference Friday

Medicinal chemist Doug Frantz delivered keynote address

By Amanda Beck
Senior Communications Specialist

To celebrate interdisciplinary scientific research conducted at UTSA and within the region, the College of Sciences hosted its third annual research conference on Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in the University Center on the Main Campus.

Conference chair Bernard Arulanandam, associate dean of research for scientific innovation and College of Sciences Dean George Perry opened the daylong event. In his remarks, Perry referenced the prior week’s State of the University Address, which acknowledged the college’s achievements in support of the university’s goal to become a Tier One research university.

Following the welcome, participants broke out into seven moderated thematic sessions in computational neurobiology; energy and environmental science; high performance computing and cyber security; infectious diseases; medicinal chemistry and biochemistry; nanotechnology and physics; and stem cells and development.

Participants included UTSA faculty and students as well as those from UT Health Sciences Center, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Southwest Research Institute, St. Mary’s University, Trinity University, San Antonio College, University of the Incarnate Word

Duke University, UT Brownsville, UT Austin, University of Houston, Texas State University at San Marcos, Texas A&M Kingsville, Texas A&M, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, UT PanAm, and Houston Community College.

Additionally, this year 30 students from John Jay High School also participated in the conference, learning about various scientific topics and mingling with potential mentors. The students participated in the conference through an outreach component of a $4.6 million Department of Defense grant establishing a Center of Excellence in Infection Genomics in the College of Sciences.

In the afternoon, more than 200 students and faculty presented their research abstracts at one of two consecutive 90-minute poster sessions. Student posters were judged by faculty experts in each thematic category and seven winners were selected to receive a plaque and an iPad. The winners were:

  • Jossina Gonzalez, a Ph.D. student in neurobiology won the Computational Neuroscience category
  • Amir Rajaee, a master’s student in electrical engineering won the Energy and Environmental Sciences category
  • Pengjun Pan, a Ph.D. student in computer science won the High Performance Computing and Cyber Security category
  • Sarah Hardison, a Ph.D. student in cellular and molecular biology won the Infectious Diseases category
  • Jon Caranto, a Ph.D. student in chemistry won the Medicinal Chemistry and Biochemistry category
  • Jorge Palas Chavez, an undergraduate physics major, won the Nanotechnology and Physics category
  • Amber Baer, a Ph.D. student in cellular and molecular biology, won the Stem Cell & Development category

UTSA Assistant Professor Doug Frantz, delivered the conference’s keynote address, “Drug Discovery in Academia: Should We Jump In?”  Frantz discussed medicinal chemistry and the role universities play in the pharmaceutical industry. He also touched on the contributions of his research team, and how San Antonio is uniquely positioned to excel in drug discovery. The conference concluded with remarks by John Frederick, UTSA provost.

The 2011 College of Sciences Research Conference was sponsored by a number of organizations including Agilent Technologies, Fischer Scientific, Gilson, KCI, Liberty Mutual, Olympus, Oppenheimer Blend Harrison and Tate, Sigma-Aldrich, Sarstedt, Syzygy Biotech and USDA.

In addition to the College of Sciences, several UTSA offices contributed to the conference including: Office of the Vice President for Research, Center for Research and Training in the Sciences, Institute for Cyber Security, RCMI, Seminars in Translational Research, South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute and the UTSA Neurosciences Institute.