Silver City, NM- Several WNMU students and professors shone very brightly at the New Mexico INBRE Conference in Santa Fe last month when they took first place in the research presentation category for their extensive project based on wasps found locally. The students included were Kevin Finch, John Tarjan, and Javier Ledesma. On the other end, Dr.’s White, Kadavakollu, and Jost were among the spearheaders of this massive project in their specific fields of chemistry and biology.
The letters in INBRE stand for IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence. The NM INBRE Conference is a local chapter of a much larger community of scientists and researchers from all across the nation brought together as Dr. Shawn White, a professor of Chemistry, explains, “INBRE is the conference for smaller areas or schools to show their research, versus the huge areas where a lot more money goes, like New York or Los Angeles.”
There were 58 research presentations on poster boards and 15 of them alone were from NM Tech, which is known to be the premiere research school in the state. WNMU came in first place however, for their project entitled, “A New Method for Peptide Discovery in Pompilid Wasps of New Mexico.” What was done in this project was explained by Kevin Finch. He said that they spent a lot of time capturing the specific wasp they needed, and then they placed it into a simulative environment, much like its natural habitat, but a lot closer for them to observe. They then took the venom from the wasps over a 91 day period. What they ended up discovering is that there were 14 different peptides that the wasp produced, and there was a new one that had never been discovered before, alpha-pompilidotoxins. Finch explained that this new peptide was of interest to the biomedical community due to neurotoxins being important for medicinal research.
Finch, a double major senior in Math and Chemistry, had this to say about their win, “It was great knowing that we beat Tech over something we had been working so hard and long on that it made everything worth it.”
Dr. White credited Dr. Amanda Jost for initially being the one who received a grant for this specific project. Everyone else was added onto the team later, at least two years into the research part, due to their skills and knowledge being needed in several other areas, such as the chemistry side of things in order for the project to succeed as well as it did.
The next step for this team of researchers and scientists is to have their research concurred into a journal manuscript to then be sent out and published in a national scientific journal with the new findings for everyone in their field to learn about. A big congratulations is extended from The Mustang to all who were involved.