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St. Bonaventure undergraduate student Jordan Powers was among 1,500 scientists — most of whom were established researchers or graduate students — who attended the American Society for Plant Biologists (ASPB) annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Powers, a biochemistry major from Lakewood, N.Y., attended the Plant Biology Meeting with SBU faculty member Xiao-Ning Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and director of the university’s biochemistry program.
A rising senior, Powers received a competitive travel award from ASPB to attend the international meeting with Zhang in Hawaii June 24-28. At the meeting Powers presented his research from the past year as a poster to researchers from nearly 40 countries.
Powers has been researching a protein called SR45, which is normally involved in an important message examination process called RNA splicing. Usually, information in our DNA is first made into a new form called RNA, just like when we print out a copy of an online article. However, the content on the printed copy is not quite readable until some words are removed. This “word cleaning,” or decoding process, is RNA splicing. The SR45 protein regulates which “words” should be taken out. Scientists in different countries, including Zhang’s lab at SBU, are still actively working on understanding how SR45 does its job and what the impacts of this protein are.
“We have found that SR45 may play a role in suppressing plant innate immunity. I am very interested in seeing if there is a way this protein can be regulated to increase a plant’s immunity when it is infected by a pathogen,” Powers said.
This was the third conference at which Powers has presented. He previously shared his research at conferences in Austin, Texas, and Cleveland, Ohio.
“Dr. Zhang took me in when I transferred to SBU and put me right into research. It really helped me adjust and research turned out to be something I loved,” said Powers.
It also turns out that research is something Powers is pretty good at. Many of the scholars at the Plant Biology Meeting assumed Powers was a graduate student based on the high level of his work, said Zhang.
“Researchers from different universities, including Yale, encouraged Jordan to apply to their Ph.D. programs,” Zhang said. “This meeting presented a perfect networking opportunity for him to be exposed to all the exciting research in plant molecular biology and, most importantly, to present himself to the researchers as an enthusiastic, outstanding and well-spoken candidate for research. I hope this will be an inspiration to other students on campus to seek out more opportunities for professional growth.”
Powers’ research experience during the past year and this conference have led him to decide to continue his education after he graduates from St. Bonaventure next May. His ultimate goal is to be a college professor.
“This meeting really gave me a great chance to show off my research as well as to make some really great connections. I would like to go to graduate school, and from this meeting alone I made multiple contacts with professors at different graduate schools,” he said.
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