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Centenary biology students recognized by national honor society

SHREVEPORT, LA — Senior biology major Rachel Perkins won the John C. Johnson Award for Excellence in Student Research at the recent Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society South Central Regional Convention. The Johnson Award recognizes the best poster presentation given at a district or national convention. Perkins presented research that she and fellow senior Kobi Stephens conducted in Dr. Cristina Caldari's Animal Physiology course at Centenary in Fall 2015.

"Rachel and Kobi's project, 'The effect of perfluorooctanoic acid on the metamorphosis of Rana catesbeiana,' was in competition with multi-person research projects and projects from labs dedicated to research, with teams of both undergrads and graduate students," says Caldari. "In contrast, their project had a $200 budget and was completed in a single semester! I think this is one of the things that most impressed the judges."

Perkins and Stephens teamed up in Caldari's course to test the effects of an organic chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), on the rate of metamorphosis of American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) tadpoles. PFOA is found in products with Teflon, in candy wrappers, and in industrial waste. The students found information related to how PFOA affects the production of thyroid hormones in certain species and hypothesized that treating tadpoles with this organic chemical would affect their rate of metamorphosis, since thyroid hormones drive the metamorphosis of amphibians. They were able to show a reduction in tail regression, reduction in front leg size increase, and reduction in head width increase in the tadpoles treated with low and high concentrations of PFOA compared to control tadpoles which were not treated with PFOA.

"Kobi and I had a great time working on our research last semester in Dr. Caldari's class, and I am thankful to have had such a great partner," says Perkins. "Working with tadpoles was something that neither one of us had ever done before so it was definitely a learning experience, especially when it came to measuring them. It is opportunities like these that make Centenary such an amazing place."

Centenary founded a chapter of the Beta Beta Beta honor society three years ago, and Perkins and Stephens are the first Centenary representatives to attend the regional convention. Other schools presenting research projects at the conference included Baylor University, Oklahoma City University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Sam Houston State University, Dallas Baptist University, and Texas Wesleyan University.

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