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Rockford University students present at research conferences

Tuesday, May 13, 2014  
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For immediate release – 5/13/14
Director of Communications Rita Elliott, 815-226-3374

Rockford, Ill. - Jennifer Brannon (Machesney Park, Ill.), a senior biology and chemistry double major, has received an Undergraduate Travel Award to present research at the Evolution 2014 Conference in Raleigh, NC, June 20-24. The Evolution Conference is the joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Systematic Biologists, and American Society of Naturalists. There will be over 1500 presentations at the conference.

Jennifer was one of 25 award recipients nation-wide and one of only four from primarily undergraduate institutions. She will be presenting her research project “Discordance Among Geographical, Morphological, and Genetic Data May Indicate Interspecific Hybridization in the Peromyscus leucopus Species Group” at the largest conference of evolutionary biologists in the world.

Jennifer will be traveling to the conference with Assistant Professor of Biology Sean Beckmann, Ph.D., and classmates Hayden Pehl (Freeport, Ill.) and Lauren Hyser (Belvidere, Ill.) Hayden and Lauren will be presenting on a project they worked on together titled, “Using microsatellite Loci to distinguish between members of the Peromyscus leucopus species
group.” All three students conducted their research in Dr. Beckmann’s lab.

Sasha Francis (Durand, Ill.), Jessica Morris (Rockford, Ill.), and Brandon Leviskas (Rockford, Ill.), presented at the Popular Culture and American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) National Conference in Chicago on April 16. Over 5,000 presentations were made over a four day period consisting of mainly faculty and graduate students. The students presentation was an extension of the work they did in the class of Assistant Professor of English Michael Perry, Ph.D. Dr. Perry chaired the panel to which the students presented.  

Their presentation examined masking, gutters, and juxtaposition within the context of reading graphic novels. Brandon studied The Hulk comic series, Jessica studied The Dark Tower comic series, and Sasha studied gender in connection to translation from comics to film. Three papers and a PowerPoint were presented to the panel. 

Jenilee Johnson (Sycamore, Ill.), Sarah Stringer (Rockford, Ill.), Stephanie Blaszczyk (Loves Park, Ill.), Brianna Schardt (Freeport, Ill.), and Lauren Hyser (Belvidere, Ill.) presented research projects at the Watercon Conference, the largest Midwest water and wastewater conference. Assistant Professor of Biology Troy Skwor, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Chemistry Matthew Bork, Ph.D., assisted the students with their research. Rockford University students took first and second place for the wastewater poster competition.

Brianna Schardt took first place in the poster competition with her research on discovering an alternative treatment against bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics. Her research used light emitting diodes (LED) with photosensitizing agents (chemical that become “active” in the presence of light to kill the bacteria. This treatment provides an alternative approach to treating bacterial infections independent of antibiotics. 

Lauren Hyser took second place in the poster competition with her research on analyzing antibiotic resistance against six different commonly used antibiotics within the Rock River and comparing it to wastewater going back into the Rock River. She was trying to determine if the level of antibiotic resistance and “superbugs” are higher in wastewater compared to what levels reside upstream in the Rock River. 

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