HIGH POINT, N.C., July 13, 2021 – 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 recent research initiatives.
HPU Professor and Student Published Findings to a Research Project
Dr. Andrew Wommack, associate professor of chemistry at HPU, and Ashleigh Purvis, HPU Class of 2022, collaborated on an interdisciplinary research project that was recently published. The goal of the project was determining how plant-defending molecules interact with the bacterial world around them. Their article, Proteomic response of Esherichia coli to a membrane lytic and iron chelating truncated Amaranthus tricolor defensin was published in BMC Microbiology.
Purvis, biochemistry major, was critical to the success of this project, as she synthesized enough of this naturally occurring molecule to be studied. She synthesized, purified
and characterized the plant peptides.
“A new mechanism of how antimicrobial peptides affect bacteria was uncovered. This allows us and other researchers to pursue new directions,” said Wommack. “The understanding of how this class of plant peptides interact with the microbial world is an ongoing investigation.”
This project was funded by a National Science Foundation grant in collaboration with Dr. Leslie Hicks, associate professor of chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill.
HPU Professor Presents Research about Appropriate Antibiotic Use at Hospital Discharge
Dr. Jordan Smith, assistant professor of clinical sciences in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy, recently presented findings from an ongoing study evaluating appropriate antibiotic prescribing for patients when they are discharged from the hospital. Unnecessary antibiotic use leads to the creation of resistant bacteria and an increased risk of antibiotic-associated adverse effects for patients. The project, which is a collaboration with the pharmacists and physicians at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, was developed to improve antibiotic prescribing for patients who go home needing to finish treatment for infections.
Smith and his colleagues at Moses Cone were able to demonstrate that a targeted, pharmacist-led intervention improved the rate of appropriate antibiotic prescribing at hospital discharge to 73% compared to a pre-intervention rate of 47%. Most of the inappropriate therapy was related to unnecessarily long treatment durations, and the pharmacists were able to have a significant impact on prescribing patterns with their interventions. The work demonstrates an effective intervention that can be replicated in institutions across the country.
“Antibiotic overuse is a huge problem in the infectious diseases world,” said Smith. “And we know that antibiotic overuse is associated with increased risks of the development of resistant bacteria and increased risk of antibiotic-associated adverse effects for patients. We knew that hospital discharge was an area where we could really improve our prescribing patterns, and here we’ve demonstrated that pharmacists have a lot of power to improve antibiotic prescribing when patients leave the hospital. We hope we’ll see similar efforts as we continue our never-ending fight against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.”
HPU Growth Mindset Study Accepted for Publication
A four-year growth mindset study conducted at High Point University was recently accepted for publication in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education international journal. Dr. Heather Miller, associate professor of chemistry, and undergraduate HPU students enrolled in biochemistry participated in the research.
This study was supported by HPU’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that is focused on helping students develop a growth mindset. HPU’s QEP provides grants to faculty, including the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning grant. Dr. Melissa Srougi was co-author.
“We found that students who took part in growth mindset interventions performed significantly better on a national standardized biochemistry final exam compared to students without these interventions,” said Miller. “This international peer-reviewed publication adds to the growing body of knowledge surrounding the growth mindset, which is the focus of HPU’s current Quality Enhancement Plan. The results from the study will help shape future courses and positively impact student learning.”
Astrophysics Professor Publishes New Method for Finding Variable Stars
Dr. Brad Barlow, associate professor of astrophysics, recently co-authored a peer-reviewed publication in the Astrophysical Journal. The article, I Spy Transits and Pulsations: Empirical Variability in White Dwarfs Using Gaia and the Zwicky Transient Facility, presents a new method the authors developed for finding new variable stars, which are stars that change in brightness over time due to binary eclipses, pulsations, rotation or other effects.
“I am excited that the prestigious Astrophysical Journal has published our novel method for identifying new variable stars,” said Barlow. “This work has been three years in the making, and I’m honored to know HPU alumni played a major part in this work. One of the most exciting moments of my career was being in the Andes mountains with those students several years ago and realizing that every single star we looked at would turn out to be a new discovery. At the time, we didn’t realize how potent this method really was.”
This work was a collaboration between HPU, Boston University, University of Texas at Austin, Wentworth Institute of Technology, University of Virginia, University of Washington, Baylor University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Two of the other co-authors are HPU alumni Thomas Boudreaux and Kyle Corcoran. Corcoran is pursuing his Ph.D. in astrophysics at University of Virginia, and Boudreaux is pursuing his Ph.D. in computational astrophysics at Dartmouth College.
HPU Director of Research Administration and Sponsored Programs Earns CRA Designation
Rachel Kinney, director of research administration and sponsored programs, has been named a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) by the Research Administrators Certification Council. This designation is awarded to professional research or sponsored programs administrators who pass a rigorous national exam that tests individuals’ knowledge of federal laws and regulations associated with sponsored research, financial management, sponsor requirements and systems, program management, and project development and administration.
“I am excited to receive this certification and honored to bring my knowledge base to High Point University and the Office of Research Administration and Sponsored Programs,” said Kinney. “This designation demonstrates to sponsors and collaborating partners that we have the requisite knowledge to facilitate a compliant research program and future growth. Faculty can be confident that we are managing their projects with a comprehensive understanding of sponsored research requirements and with the goal of research excellence, providing faculty the ability to focus on the scientific aspects of their projects.”
Hired in February, Kinney has had a significant impact on sponsored programs at HPU, forging new relationships with faculty, enhancing policies and procedures, and managing a funding portfolio in excess of $3 million. Her CRA certification further enhances what was already a stellar reputation in the research administration community.
“The CRA is a nationally recognized credential signifying that an individual was examined by an independent professional organization and found to have the expertise necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of a research or sponsored programs administrator,” said Dr. Jeff Adams, vice president for research and planning. “Rachel’s achievement is special. She is now one of only about 200 people in the state of North Carolina with a CRA designation. High Point University is fortunate to have someone of Rachel’s skill and ability overseeing our growing program of sponsored research.”
“My goal is to deepen the institutional capacity to support HPU’s talented faculty members as they carry out innovative scholarship in a collaborative environment,” said Kinney. “High Point University faculty are incredibly enthusiastic about their research, and I am thrilled to be supporting their mission.