Students and Faculty Recognized for Research and Innovation

Research Innovation

HIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 26, 2019 – Members of the High Point University community frequently conduct, publish and share research and creative works in a variety of ways. Below is a recap of research initiatives this summer.

Pictured from left to right are Grinalds, Barlow and Corcoran.

HPU Students and Faculty Present Research at Astrophysics Conference in France

Dr. Brad Barlow, associate professor of astrophysics, and two of his students traveled to Hendaye, France, to present their research at The Ninth Meeting on Hot Subdwarfs and Related Objects.

Nathan Grinalds, a senior, and Kyle Corcoran, a member of HPU’s Class of 2019, gave a joint presentation on research they have been conducting to uncover new compact binary star systems using information from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft. Barlow also presented science research he’s conducting using the Evryscope, the world’s first Gigapixel-scale telescope.

“Nearly all of the participants were professors or Ph.D. students which made our students stand out,” says Barlow. “They did a tremendous job disseminating their research results at the conference and representing HPU and our physics department.” 

HPU Students Present Research at American Chemical Society National Meeting

Seventeen students and two faculty members traveled to Orlando, Florida, to present their research at the American Chemical Society national meeting. This was the largest group of student researchers that HPU has sent to this meeting.

Students presented their original undergraduate research topics that ranged from making better solar cells to disarming antibiotic resistance in bacteria and understanding how HIV uses human proteins to infect cells.

“Presenting their work at a national conference was an incredible opportunity for these students,” says Dr. Meghan Blackledge, assistant professor of chemistry. “They were able to engage with chemists from around the world, attend talks by Nobel laureates, and share their hard work with the wider chemistry community. This experience helps them understand the full impact of their scientific research and gives them fresh new ideas to consider as they continue their experiments. We are very grateful that HPU supports undergraduate research and experiential learning, and provides these opportunities to students and faculty to further their scholarly work.”

McClung presented research at this year’s International Society of Biomechanics in Calgary, Canada.

HPU Students Present Research at International Society of Biomechanics 

Jordan McClung, a senior and exercise science and physics double major, and Anika Weisbrod, a senior and exercise science major, both presented research at this year’s International Society of Biomechanics in Calgary, Canada.

McClung’s research focused on the effect of ankle sprain history on ankle inversion movements in high school football players. McClung examined a players’ ankle movement during football-related tasks who had a history of sprain. He found a player’s playing position influenced the risk of ankle sprain and concluded technique and footwear should be reconsidered.

“To present research that I’ve worked on was an incredible experience,” says McCLung. “An opportunity like this does not come often, so I am grateful that HPU and Dr. Ford prepared me well for this conference and for years to come.”

Weisbrod’s research looked at the reliability of a clinic-based treadmill with marker-less motion capture in measuring human movement while a patient is running, like in hips and knees. This is a less expensive and easier to use technique with patients. Marker-based motion capture is considered the “gold standard” for measuring a patient’s movement but is more expensive. She found the marker-less technique has some merit but should be used with caution when treating joint issues.

Weisbrod presented her research at this year’s International Society of Biomechanics.

“I have been working with Dr. Ford in the biomechanics lab for two years now and am so grateful for the experience,” says Weisbrod. “It was great to meet the top researchers from around the world. This experience will certainly help set me up for success.”

“It is extremely rare for undergraduate students to have oral presentations at such a prestigious conference that is only held every two years in different locations around the world,” says Dr. Kevin Ford, director of the Human Biomechanics and Physiology Laboratory in HPU’s Congdon School of Health Sciences and professor of physical therapy. “They did a fantastic job presenting their findings.”

HPU Faculty Selected to Lead Standardized Patient Workshop 

Toni Jackson, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, and Jay Peterson, associate professor of physician assistant studies, will lead the Physician Assistant Education Association forum entitled, “Faking it – Standardized Patient Case Creation for Competency-Based Education.” The workshop will be held in October in Washington D.C.

Toni Jackson, assistant professor of physician assistant studies.

Jay Peterson, associate professor of physician assistant studies.

Jackson and Peterson will share with other physician assistant educators how HPU’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies create and implement standardized patient cases to enhance student learning. They will also teach other professionals how to evaluate student competency, and lead the group in generating standardized patient cases that assess outcomes within the core competencies of new physician assistant graduates.

“As a PA educator, I feel that the utilization of standardized patients in medical education is a vital component in the preparation of future healthcare providers,” says Jackson. “Students frequently share with me their standardized patient experiences reignite their passion for the PA profession. Similarly, the standardized patients feel that through their work, they are aiding in the maturation of HPU PA students into well-rounded healthcare professionals.”

“I am excited to share details about our Department of Physician Assistant Studies with educators from more than 250 other PA master degree programs across the country,” says Peterson. “HPU’s experiential education approach provides students with realistic patient encounters in our Center for Medical Simulation. The standardized patient experiences provide our students with the opportunity to hit the ground running during their clinical rotations in the second year of our program.”

Dr. Meghan Blackledge, assistant professor of chemistry.

HPU Faculty Research Findings Featured in International Publication

Dr. Meghan Blackledge, assistant professor of chemistry, and Heather Miller, associate professor of chemistry, were recently published in the journal ACS Infectious Diseases and featured in the American Chemical Society’s trade publication, Chemical and Engineering News, for their research in antibiotic resistance. C&E News is distributed to more than 400,000 American Chemical Society subscribers.

Along with four HPU undergraduate co-authors, Blackledge and Miller have found the common antihistamine loratadine, which is the active ingredient in Claritin, makes some species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria susceptible to antibiotics.

Dr. Heather Miller, associate professor of chemistry.

The team also showed that loratadine was capable of inhibiting and breaking up staphylococcal biofilms, sticky films of bacteria that can attach to medical devices and form chronic reservoirs of infection. Biofilms are notoriously difficult to treat and cause failure of many medical devices such as knee and hip implants, catheters and cardiac stents. There are currently no FDA-approved therapies specifically designed to treat biofilm-based infections. 

Blackledge and Miller lab teams are working with clinicians to determine whether loratadine could be repurposed to provide a novel, safe and effective treatment to patients battling chronic and antibiotic resistant staphylococcal infections. 

“This research is very exciting because antibiotic resistance and biofilm-based infections are both on the rise, and the drug development timeline for new therapies typically takes more than 20 years and millions of dollars,” says Blackledge. “Loratadine has a great safety profile and could prove to be a very interesting and useful treatment that could be more rapidly deployed in the clinic.”

“Having our work featured in C&EN is very exciting,” says Miller. “Not only did the feature help publicize our work widely, but it was gratifying recognition for the hard work of our undergraduate researchers. We are continuing our collaborative work in chemical biology in HPU’s brand new Wanek School of Natural Sciences that is opening this month. The results that we recently published are just the beginning of what we think will be many more exciting discoveries that bridge chemistry and biology.”

HPU Student Wins National Research Award

Gerrett Hill, senior biology major.

Garret Hill, a senior and biology major, recently won the 2019 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Jerry K. Taylor Excellence in Military Research Award. This award was presented by the Environmental and Occupational Physiology Special Interest at the 2019 ACSM annual meeting, which took place this summer in Orlando, Florida. Hill’s peer-reviewed work was also selected for a thematic poster presentation at that meeting.

Hill has participated in the Congdon School of Health Sciences’ Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program in 2018 and 2019, working under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Kuennen, assistant professor of exercise science. Their research focuses on remediating the gastrointestinal barrier damage that occurs in response to exercise at extreme altitude and hot and dry weather conditions.

“Garrett is a wonderful undergraduate student with a strong head on his shoulders,” says Kuennen. “His work in the lab has been exemplary. I know he is currently applying for medical school and expect he will go far in this area.”

HPU Junior Receives Fellowship and Attends Red Sea Summer Program 

Mikaela Seemann, a junior and biochemistry major.

, secured a fellowship to study marine biology in the Red Sea. Recipients of the Red Sea Summer Program fellowship spend three weeks fully funded in Saudi Arabia living and studying at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Alongside a cohort of undergraduates and graduate students, Seemann closely examined genomics, ecology, biological oceanography, microbiology and environmental science.

“The Red Sea Program is an amazing opportunity to conduct research and take classes in an international community,” says Seemann. “I was excited to learn more about the ocean life in this unique part of the world and gain new academic and cultural experiences.”

“The Red Sea Summer Program is an incredible opportunity for Mikaela to explore her interests in biochemistry and microbiology in the context of marine environments,” says Dr. Meghan Blackledge, assistant professor of chemistry. “Meeting and working with other students and faculty from across the globe provides her with unique connections and perspectives that will be invaluable as she continues her education and career. I am very proud of Mikaela’s hard work and look forward to seeing how her experiences in Saudi Arabia enhance her next two years at HPU.” 

HPU Faculty Graduates from National Award-Winning Program

Dr. Alexis Wright, associate professor of physical therapy.

Dr. Alexis Wright, associate professor of physical therapy, recently graduated from the American Physical Therapy Association’s Education Leadership Institute Fellowship program.

The program provides developing and aspiring program directors in physical therapist and physical therapist assistant education programs with the skills and resources they need to be innovative, influential and visionary leaders.

“I believe this program has enhanced my understanding of educational leadership from the everyday logistics of improved student assessment and a greater understanding of the intricacies of higher education,” says Wright. “I am very grateful for the Department of Physical Therapy and the Congdon School of Health Sciences in their support of my development as a leader in physical therapy education.” 

Pharmacy Students and Faculty Awarded National Grant

Dr. Julie Cooper, associate professor of pharmaceutical clinical studies, and the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy’s Student Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (SSHP) were selected as a recipient of a 2019 American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Student Society Development Grant.

CJ Puelo, HPU pharmacy student.

The grants are awarded to SSHP chapters to provide support for them to work in collaboration with the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists to achieve chapter recognition by the national organization.

“Our executive board is both honored and grateful to be chosen as the recipient for ASHP’s SSHP Development Grant,” says CJ Puelo, president of HPU’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy Student Society of Health System Pharmacists and a fourth-year pharmacy student. “Our officers worked extremely hard over the past year to provide and coordinate meaningful events to our members of the organization with limited resources. We are excited to move forward with the support of ASHP to continue to provide various learning experiences to assist in the professional development of our members.”

“We are honored to partner with the American Society of Health System Pharmacists through this grant to develop our local Student Society of Health System Pharmacists,” says Cooper. “SSHP is a wealth of opportunities for our students to grow professionally and make a meaningful impact on the pharmacy profession in collaboration with ASHP.”

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