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Student Malik Hamilton working in chemistry research lab, on faculty Tom Clayton's project on liquid crystals.

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Knox McNair Scholars Apply Classroom Knowledge to Innovative Research

December 05, 2017

Student Malik Hamilton working in chemistry research lab, on faculty Tom Clayton's project on liquid crystals.

The relationship between mental illness, psychological abuse, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Bloodroot as an alternative treatment to oral cancer in canines. The relationship between social isolation and drug craving. These are just a few of the topics students are researching through Knox College's McNair Scholars Program.

The McNair Program aims to increase the number of underrepresented students who successfully attain Ph.D. degrees by providing tailored services and resources that will help eligible students overcome the barriers that they face when matriculating into doctoral programs.

Since the McNair Program began at Knox with the 1992-93 academic year, 233 scholars have completed the program, with more than half going on to earn graduate degrees. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is a part of the Federal TRIO Program.

Each year, the McNair Program selects 10 sophomores who work with faculty mentors through their senior year to develop academic and research projects.

Natalie Haddad '19 has been working on bloodroot as a potential alternative treatment to oral cancer in canines. Her long-term goals include either a Ph.D. or DVM to practice veterinary medicine, and she says that her research will provide crucial hands-on clinical work and laboratory experience. "This research is basically allowing me to see what it'd be like to go into this field before I'm even done with undergrad, which is not something many people get to do."

For Malik Hamilton '19, who is researching the formation of liquid crystals at room temperature, facing adversity has been his most memorable experience at Knox so far. "Dissolving a specific salt can take up to a week. That delays the amount of hands-on time with the project. My mentor has come up with an alternate way to get around that problem. I followed through with the plan and it seemed to have worked while producing high yields. Being able to overcome a problem with success has been a great feeling."

The support of Knox faculty was also echoed by Justin Bell '19, who noted that "if one professor doesn't know a solution, communication within the department will result in someone who can help you. Also, everyone on the McNair staff is helpful with any problems that will inevitably arise when you're doing research." Bell says that his research on the psychology of addiction has given him "all the basic skills I'll need to continue researching in life."

Junior Suzy Vargas studied mutations and their impact on immature egg cells, and credits the McNair program with taking her past her "comfort zone." Her faculty advisor, Judy Thorn, played a critical role in the skills she gained in the lab. "I wouldn't have been able to go through with this research without [Judy's] time and dedication."

Knox is one of just 140 colleges and universities in the McNair Program and one of the first small liberal arts colleges in the nation selected for the initiative. The College was recently notified of the program's reauthorization for another five years.

Here are the most recent research projects conducted by Knox McNair Scholars:

  • Natalie Haddad '19: Bloodroot as an Alternative Treatment to Oral Cancer in Canines
  • Suzy Vargas '19: Obesity Genes Correlation with Diabetes
  • Malik Hamilton '19: Synthesis and Characterization of Mesomorphic Heteroleptic Carboxylate Complexes of Cu(II): Cu2(O2CC7H15)2(O2CR)2
  • Justin Bell '19: The Relationship between Social Isolation and Drug Craving
  • Aziza Bentsi-Enchill '19: An Ethnographic Exploration of the Urban Agriculture Movement and Food Security
  • Diamond Jelani '18: Preparation of Copper Catalysts for Hydrosilylation Reactions
  • Serena Dow '19: The Examination of Autism and Hyper and Hyporeactivity to Sensory Input
  • Meghan Gaynor '19: Pre-existing Mental Illness as a Risk Factor of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Resulting from Psychological Abuse
  • Jim Huang '19: Dictyostelium Discoideum's Mutagenesis Furthers Consumption of Bacteria
  • Celisha Oscar '20: Copper Dimers and Axial Site Manipulation

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Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2018