ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) Department of Biology and Chemistry students recently traveled from Daytona Beach to St. Louis, Mo., to attend the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Division of Minority Opportunities in Research Program and managed by the American Society for Microbiology. 

Now in its 11th year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral students, including mathematics, attracting approximately 3,300 individuals, including 1,700 undergraduate students, 400 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists and 1,200 faculty, program directors and administrators. Students come from more than  350 U.S. colleges and universities.

The conference is designed to encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, and provide faculty mentors and advisors with resources for facilitating students’ success. More than 500 representatives from graduate programs at U.S. colleges and universities as well as scientists from government agencies, foundations, and professional scientific societies joined ABRCMS in the exhibitors program to share information about graduate school and summer internship opportunities.

The four students who attended presented posters during the Nov. 9-11 conference. Surendra Sharma, a junior biology major, presented a poster in biochemistry; Erika Russell and Sarah Johnson, senior chemistry majors, presented in chemistry; and Danielle Chisolm, a senior biology major, presented in biology. Chisolm attended the conference through a scholarship from the University of Notre Dame, where she completed a 2011 summer internship. Russell was provided a travel award to attend the conference, covering all expenses.

B-CU students stood out in a large crowd of competitors during their presentations. Sharma’s presentation earned him one of 20 top honors in his category, out of approximately 600 students from all over the nation.

“This is a very distinguished and well earned honor,” said Dr. C. Ainsley Davis, a B-CU professor of biology, who accompanied the students on their trip and was also a judge at the event. “Every student that presented was met with extremely positive remarks from judges in their categories and were even recruited to graduate programs as a result of their excellent presentation skills.”

The B-CU students had extensive networking op-portunities with schools ranging from other HBCUs to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). Each of the students obtained vouchers for graduate school application fee waivers from universities including Emory, Duke and Cornell.

Also in attendance was B-CU alumnus Courtney ­­JnBaptiste (’09), who is in his second year of the Ph.D.program in biology at M.I.T. JnBaptiste serves as an ambassador and recruiter for M.I.T.’s summer research programs and for the graduate school.

“In all, each of us had a tremendous time learning from prominent researchers in biomedical sciences and in our individual and concurrent sessions,” said Davis. “This meeting definitely shows B-CU students can compete with students from any school in the nation and we are so proud of our Wildcat researchers.”