A Cartersville resident and Kennesaw State University student says a $4,000 award she received has helped her continue her research into how to attack diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Emma Henry was among 11 Kennesaw State science and math students to each receive a $4,000 stipend to pursue individual research interests as part of the Birla Carbon Scholars program, a news release stated.
Henry told a reporter she has been working continually on her project since beginning it in the fall of 2018. She said she hoped her results can be published.
“I was grateful enough to be awarded the Birla Carbon Scholarship which has allowed me to dedicate my entire summer working on my project in hopes to make a lot of progress and perhaps even acquire enough information and results to be publishable,” she said..
Henry is working on a bachelor’s degree in biology. The Cartersville High School graduate earned Dean’s List honors by earning at least a 3.5 grade point average for the fall 2018 semester.
Biochemistry professor Jonathan McMurry recommended Henry for the research scholarship. She also had to submit an undergraduate research project abstract and own a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
Henry said she hoped her research “can help gain monumental insight on diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.”
She said she was working to determine the physical structure of a small protein, or peptide, called the auto-inhibitory loop.
“This loop is a part of endothelial nitric oxide synthase which is basically an operator system within the body that helps to keep a lot of our bodily processes functioning how they are supposed to,” Henry said.
“The auto-inhibitory loop is very important because it can bind to mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) which are heavily involved in regulation of our bodily functions such as cell proliferation,” she said.
In cancerous cells where the cell “has decided to abandon ship and no longer listen to the cues of the captain, a lot of times these MAPKs are the culprit behind this,” Henry said.
“(They) are deregulated and no longer work how they are supposed to, resulting in cancer or many other diseases.
“The auto-inhibitory loop can bind to these MAPKs that are wreaking havoc within the body and correct their function, potentially stopping many harmful diseases.
“I am working on determining the physical structure of this loop because it will tell scientists all over the world how these pathways in our body work better than we know now.
“The way I am going to determine the structure is by using a myriad of biochemical techniques,” Henry said.
Birla Carbon, the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of carbon black, established the 10-week summer program.
The company used the sixth year of the scholars program to increase the number of scholars from 10 to 11 and increase its pledge to $275,000 — a five-year annual gift of $55,000 — to support the undergraduate research program in the College of Science and Mathematics.
The 11 projects run the gamut from green chemistry to muon tomography, and from the identification of cardiac regulatory genes to forensic analysis of lead-free ammunition residue.
Donald McGarey, interim dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said, “The opportunity to work side-by-side with some of our most talented faculty members performing original research is one of the partnership’s great strengths. We are thankful to Birla Carbon for their continuing support.”
Recipients will discuss their research projects at the university’s 2019 Birla Carbon Symposium on Aug. 29. The top student will receive an additional $2,000 to use toward travel expenses to present the project at a national scientific conference.
Since 2014, funding provided by the chemical manufacturer has allowed 50 Birla Carbon Scholars to participate in summer research opportunities.