Nov. 18, 2004 University of the Virgin Islands senior Andre Francis garnered one of the top awards in the chemical sciences category at the recent Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Dallas, Texas. Twenty-eight UVI students, representing both the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses, joined Francis and more than 1,000 other minority students from hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. at the Nov. 10-13 conference.
"UVI has done well at smaller conferences, but this is our first win at this major national conference," said Dr. Teresa Turner, a professor of marine biology at UVI.
Turner, who was among three UVI professors in attendance, said Francis' win, as well as the professional manner displayed by the other UVI students in Texas are important.
"This increases our visibility as an institution that produces excellent students, one that provides excellent training and opportunities," she said.
She also stressed that participation in such prestigious conferences provides important opportunities for UVI's students. The conference, which UVI students started attending in the mid 1980s, is the largest for minority students in the U.S. This year it drew more than 2,400 participants overall, including leading scientists and representatives from top graduate schools and government institutions. "This gives our students the chance to interact with the best scientists in the country," Turner added. She also noted the numerous opportunities it provided for students to continue their post-graduate studies at some of the country's best schools.
Francis, a 33-year-old native of Trinidad majoring in chemistry and mathematics, agreed. He was impressed with the "numbers and the quality of the conference." Over and above his involvement in the competition, he was particularly pleased with the opportunity to meet with representatives from Washington University. The school, located in St. Louis, Mo., offers a M.D./Ph.D. program in which Francis hopes to enroll after graduating from UVI.
Francis competed in the conference's chemical sciences category one of nine disciplines offered in Texas. He presented the results of research he conducted in the Virgin Islands comparing the efficiency of a solar energy panel tracking systems against that of stationary solar panels. His research was partially funded by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and a National Science Foundation grant.
Francis said conference judges were "particularly interested in hearing about the problems I encountered and the practical solutions I used to overcome them & what you can do on your own, with your own resources." Francis' mentors at UVI include Dr. Camille McKayle, an associate professor of mathematics on St. Thomas, and John Munro, associate professor of computer information systems on St. Croix.
One highlight of the 2004 conference for UVI's students and faculty members was a presentation by Dr. Benjamin Carson, a professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Carson, who gained international renown in 1987 as the principal surgeon in a dramatic operation to separate conjoined twins, is probably best known by the territory's students as the author of the 1990 book "Gifted Hands." In his book, Dr. Carson recounts his journey from a troubled youngster in the inner-city to a Yale scholarship, the University of Michigan Medical School and success at Johns Hopkins.
UVI's participating students an increase from the 16 who attended the 2003 conference are pursuing studies in a wide variety of fields. Their majors range from psychology, computer science and mathematics to engineering, chemistry, biology and marine biology. Funding for the trip came from a combination of grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Other UVI faculty members joining Dr. Turner at the conference were Dr. Velma Tyson, chair of the Division of Science and Mathematics on the St. Croix campus, and Dr. Tony Perry, professor of chemistry on the St. Thomas campus.
For more information contact Dr. Teresa Turner at 693-1382.
More information about the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students is available on this web site: http://www.abrcms.org/
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