By Mallory Gatson, Staff Writer
November 11, 2021
Josh Spiva, a junior chemistry and biomedical sciences double major, was awarded first place for his oral presentation at the Arkansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (AR INBRE) conference on Oct. 29. The AR INBRE program was established with the purpose of broadening the geographic distribution of National Institute of Health funding for biomedical and behavioral research.
Approximately 100 students from colleges around Arkansas attended the event, 20 of which were Ouachita students. The group of students from Ouachita were able to attend this conference through the funding of the Patterson Research Program in Ouachita’s school of Natural Sciences.
The program allows undergraduate students to do research with a science faculty member for nine weeks during the summer. Research is required for a Bachelors of Science in the school of Natural Sciences.
Spiva participated in the research program last summer and presented this research at the conference.
As he was preparing for the summer, Spiva began searching for summer research opportunities in his field. In the end, he decided to research with Dr. Sharon Hamilton, associate chemistry professor in the Patterson School of Natural Sciences.
“I looked for research programs during the summer and also looked at lab availability,” Spiva said. “Dr. Hamilton’s [lab] allowed for extended research.”
At the conference, Spiva gave an oral presentation over wound dressings. There are two types of wound dressings: traditional and modern. Spiva focused on the
modern wound dressings, arguing that they are more advanced and helpful.
Throughout his research, Spiva has focused on how to incorporate proteins into wound dressings.
In order to accomplish their research goals, Hamilton and Spiva collaborated with a professor from the University of Arkansas. This professor helped provide them with the protein, which was a necessary component for the research.
Spiva started conducting his research at the end of May and finished at the beginning of August. Although the conference is now over, his research is ongoing as he will continue to work in Dr. Hamilton’s lab. Moving forward, Spiva hopes to publish his findings in an academic publication in the near future.
After the conference concluded, students returned to their respective universities. Participants were notified of their awards on Monday, Nov. 1.
“There were expectations to place, but not to win first place,” Spiva said. “There were five other people who had really cool research projects that were very different from mine.”
When Spiva found out he placed, he was logging into his biochemistry class on Zoom. His friend, Jade Dorman, also a science major, notified him that the results had been posted on the AR INBRE website.
Spiva was extremely shocked and felt as if that moment was surreal. He devoted numerous hours to his research, but in the end the reward was well worth it.
“It has been great because the science department is very closeknit,” Spiva said. “The close knit aspect comes from upperclassmen helping others with assignments and being mentors for those that are younger. I really loved that when I was an underclassman. The biomed science program has allowed me to make great friendships, and the professors are phenomenal. That has created a really good experience in the science center.”
Spiva has found that students at Ouachita are invested in helping each other succeed.
“I think that the university as a whole is very big on helping each other get oriented. No matter what you are going through, someone else has been through it and they will be there to help you,” Spiva said. “The opportunities that Ouachita provides are similar to that of a bigger school, and so being at a smaller school has not hindered me at all.”
Spiva plays an active role in the American Chemical Society (ACS), where he serves as vice president. He is also an active member of Tri Beta, the biology honor society and the Ouachita Student Foundation (OSF).
Spiva encourages freshmen to venture outside of their comfort zones and participate in extracurricular activities on campus.
“Do not let your freshman grades discourage you and get involved in something even if it is on a smaller scale,” Spiva said. “Freshman year can be a huge learning lesson if you apply it as such.”
Spiva got involved with activities on campus as soon as he could. He first joined the ACS his freshman year. He was eager to dive into the science community on campus because of his passion for the field.
Spiva has decided that medicine is the best way to serve people with his talents in science. After Spiva graduates, he is interested in obtaining both an M.D. and a Ph.D. He would like to work in a clinical research setting where he gets to do lab work, as well as see patients.
cover photo by Levi Dade