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Chemistry PEER Scholar Presented at NOBCChE

Leondra LawsonLeondra Lawson, a second year graduate student in the Dadmun’s Group, and a Scholar of Program for Excellence & Equity in Research, attended 2015 Conference of National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers held in Orlando Florida from Sept. 21 to 25.

Lawson gave an oral presentation on her recent research, titled “Enhancing the Cyanoacrylate Fuming Method for Optimal Retrieval of Latent Prints.” The project assesses the impact of temperature and humidity on the cyanoacrylate fuming method, a technique used by forensic scientists to visualize fingerprints. “The purpose of my research is to identify the mechanism of the chemical reactions that occur at a molecular level. This method is governed by the anionic polymerization of ethyl cyanoacrylate (ECA).” Lawson said, “We have begun the research to focus on the coupling effects of humidity and temperature, and subsequently, we will observe the effects of various surfaces on the polymerization of ethyl cyanoacrylate.”

Although only a second year Ph.D. student, Lawson is an experienced presenter and has presented at the Organization’s previous conference as well as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. Lawson also enjoyed the different sessions offered during this conference. “I had a great time at NOBCChE!” Lawson said, “One of the special sessions, ‘STEM’s Impact on 21st Century Forensic Science,’ was of particular interest to me because of my decade long desire to work in forensics.  The session presented a variety of careers that are available to chemists with a desire to work in the forensics field. ”

Also attended conference was Dr. Sekeenia Haynes, administrator for Program for Excellence & Equity in Research. Haynes was impressed with Lawson’s presentation. “She (Leondra) began speaking at a rapid pace but slowed down at a comfortable rate once prompt by someone in the audience. She then took a breath and with clarity presented a quality presentation. Leondra was professional, poised and addressed the questions from the audience with confidence.” Haynes commented.

Program for Excellence & Equity in Research housed in the Department of Biochemistry & Cellular & Molecular Biology is an initiative to increase the number of exceptional underrepresented students graduating with doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Program seeks to advance a doctoral student’s competitiveness and interest in their chosen career field by offering professional development, ambitious research and dynamic mentoring opportunities.

The Program encourages its scholars to present at national conferences by providing funding support and preparation workshops. Multiple chemistry graduates student including Lawson and Tanei Ricks, both the Program scholars, have benefited from it. “Presenting at national conferences allows an opportunity for PEER scholars to present themselves and their research to the academic community.” Haynes said, “The feedback from Scientists with similar interests could prove to be most valuable… National conferences is also a great place for Scholars to meet new colleagues and expand their mentoring network.  Establishing and nurturing relationships with a diverse set of mentors can lead to opportunities (I.e., post-doctoral position) and resources that facilitate in advancing the Scholars career.”

With funding on the Dadmun Group’s latent prints project renewed, Lawson is expected to continue her work. Earlier this year, Lawson published her first-authored paper, titled Binding, fractionation, and distribution of Cs, Co, and Sr in a US coastal soil under saturated and field capacity moisture regimes,” on Journal of Soils and Sediments.