Kennesaw State University senior Basirat Olorunlambe’s research on the use of bacteria to reduce infections from MRSA, an infection caused by drug-resistant Staphyloccocus bacteria, in healthcare facilities, won the top award at the College of Science and Mathematics Birla Carbon Symposium.

The annual event recognizes 11 student scholars and their research.

The 11 scholars were chosen based on the recommendations of College of Science and Mathematics faculty members, submission of an undergraduate research project abstract, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Recipients worked with their sponsoring faculty members on their proposed research projects in five different departments within CSM.

The 2020 Birla Carbon Scholars, their majors and their mentors are:

♦ Soobin An, Biology, Anton Bryantsev.

♦ Preston Eldridge, Biochemistry, Thomas Leeper.

♦ Oliver Erasmus, Chemistry, Christopher Dockery.

♦ Ian Foster, Physics, Kisa Ranasinghe.

♦ Gracyn Jewett, Physics, David Joffe.

♦ Ansa Malik, Biology, Jonathan Lyon.

♦ Pavan Mayinampati, Mathematics, Glenn Young.

♦ Basirat Olorunlambe, Biochemistry, Ramja Rajagopalan.

♦ Abeer Osman, Biology, Jonathan McMurry.

♦ Minh Vo, Biochemistry, Michael Stollenz.

♦ Brittny Vosper, Biochemistry, Rajnish Singh.

Since 2014, funding provided by Birla Carbon, a worldwide chemical manufacturer, has allowed 72 Birla Carbon Scholars to participate in research opportunities. In 2019, Birla reaffirmed its commitment to the program by extending the agreement for another five years and adding $275,000 to the commitment. Terence Norman, director of human resources at Birla Carbon, said the company looks forward to this event every year to showcase young scientists.

Normally, the experience takes place over 10 weeks in the summer, but the coronavirus pandemic shifted the students’ research to the fall. The pandemic also rendered the annual symposium a virtual event in spring semester, a change from the poster presentation that typically takes place at the beginning of the fall semester.

The Birla Carbon Team judges awarded Olorunlambe, who works in the laboratory of assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology Ramja Rajagopalan, for her research project, titled “The Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Crisis: Overcoming Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) by Myxobacterial Predation.” She said Dr. Rajagopalan helped her find a focus for her project that sparked her desire to positively impact the medical community worldwide.

Along with the $4,000 stipend each scholar received, Olorunlambe received an additional $2,000 in travel funds to present her research at a national or regional conference of her choice. She said she expects those conferences to take place virtually, and she’ll make her presentation this summer.

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