University of the Ozarks junior Julio Molina-Pineda’s interest in scientific research just got ratcheted up a notch.
The biology and chemistry major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, took home first place in oral presentation in biology at the 2017 Arkansas IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) conference, held Oct. 27-28 at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The INBRE research conference is an annual highlight that brings together students, faculty, researchers, and guests from four-year colleges throughout Arkansas.
Molina-Pineda’s presentation topic, “Antioxidant Carbon Nanoparticle Results in Novel Auditory Response in Mice,” was based on the research he did this past summer in a nine-week internship with Dr. Fred Pereira at the Baylor College of Medicine. He was one of five students chosen to give an oral presentation at the INBRE conference out of more than 100 abstracts submitted. His presentation was given the top honor in biology by the judges.
“It was the first time I’ve ever given a presentation at anything like that, so I was pretty nervous,” Molina-Pineda said. “One of my professors reminded me right before I went out there that nobody in the audience knew more about this topic than I did and that helped relax me. After I finished, I thought it had gone pretty well, but I was still shocked when they called my name for first place.”
Molina-Pineda’s research with Dr. Pereira involved testing potential drugs for people with hearing disabilities.
“We were specifically looking at hearing loss in people who have undergone chemotherapy,” he said. “It’s very exciting and fulfilling to know that you’re working on something that can positively impact hundreds or thousands of people. When I was able to share that information at a conference, it made me realize that I’m headed toward the perfect career for me.”
Molina-Pineda was one of nine U of O students who were joined by three Ozarks professors at the conference. Senior Valeria Robleto won an honorable mention for her poster about the cloning and expression of human separase.
Biology Professor Dr. Sean Coleman said students like Molina-Pineda gain invaluable experience by attending and participating at scientific conferences.
“Doing research and then presenting research at a conference gives the students confidence that they are progressing towards becoming a professional and allows them to meet students who have similar goals and ambitions,” Coleman said. “It is enjoyable as a faculty member to see our students mature into accomplished young professionals.”
Molina-Pineda said his interest in research has grown significantly during his time at Ozarks.
“To be able to work with and be encouraged by our faculty here has definitely made me realize that I want to pursue a career in research,” he said. “I see more every day how research can help people, even though you may not realize it at the time because it’s not always sudden and immediate. I want to be a part of the scientific community that is helping to change the world for the better, a little at a time.”