​Six Student Researchers Win Top Honors at Research Symposium

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By Hazel Scott/ASU

Six student researchers at Alabama State University were top winners at the Annual Research Frontier Symposium that was recently held in a virtual format from the ASU campus. The Symposium theme was “Diversity in STEM Research.”

Of the 11 awards presented to students in both the oral and poster categories at the two-day event, six went to ASU students, according to the chair of the 2023 Symposium Organizing Committee, Dr. Harvey Hou, a professor of Forensic Science in ASU’s Laboratory of Forensic Analysis and Photosynthesis.

“We were most gratified to see such a large number of the University’s students placed so well from among such a wide array of exceptional students from many different schools and states,” said Hou.

Among ASU’s 11 symposium winners, the following three won in the oral category: Jeffrey Ogbudu (Ph.D.), Hagir Abdelmagid (Master of Science) and Alexa Mathis (undergraduate). The University’s two winners in the poster presentation category were Arris Thornton (Master of Science) and Eryn Griffin (undergraduate).

The winner of the inaugural Robert Villafane Award was ASU’s Ph.D. student, Ayodeji O. Ipinmoroti. The Villafane Award is in memory of one of the world’s leading researchers and former professor of Microbiology at ASU, Dr. Robert Villafane.  He was the first recruit obtained for the new Graduate Program in Microbiology at ASU.

Hou said this year’s symposium had more than 100 participants from 21 institutions in 15 states, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Alabama.

“We received 69 abstracts from 12 institutions, including LAMP High School, Northridge High School, Troy University, Huntingdon College, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Rockefeller University, SUNY Rockland County College, Tennessee State University, University of Southern California, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Alabama State University,” Hou added.


This year’s Plenary speaker was Dr. Thomas Sakmar, who is a Richard M. and Isabel P. Furlaud Professor at Rockefeller University in New York. Rockefeller University is the world’s leading biomedical research institution in NYC and has won a collective 26 Nobel Prizes.

“Dr. Sakmar is the formal Acting President of Rockefeller University, the formal Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and the Senior Physician of the Rockefeller University Hospital,” Hou said.

The featured speaker was Dr. Michelle Foster, an associate professor of mathematics at ASU. Foster is the associate dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences. Foster shared her experience, research achievements, research program, and future plans from her group with the participants.


The popularity of last year’s three inaugural events earned them a spot at this year’s symposium.  The returning events were: "Lunch Informal Student Discussion Session," which is designed for students by the Symposium Student Committee; the session "Panel Discussion Session: How to put together a strong graduate application?"; and the "Lunch Panel Discussion Session: Graduate Programs," which focused on the graduate programs at diverse institutions.
About the Symposium

The symposium is an ASU-initiated regional conference that highlights scholarship in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) research fields with a goal of increasing students’ interest and enrollment in STEM research and studies.

 “Over the years, the symposium has increasingly become a regional conference and provides an excellent platform for undergraduate, graduate and research scholars at Alabama State University, as well as other institutions, to share their research experience to a broader audience,” said Hou.