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3 Gatton Academy students earn awards at science fairs

Three Gatton Academy students have been recognized with awards at science fairs across Kentucky.

Erin Burba, a senior from Paducah, and Amanda White, a junior from Louisville, were recognized at the Louisville Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Rena Ryumae, a senior from Union, won awards at the Science and Engineering Fair of Northern Kentucky.

Erin Burba

Erin Burba

Erin Burba

Burba earned numerous awards at the Louisville Regional Science and Engineering Fair for her research, “Relations between Mycorrhizal Abundance and Biofuel Crop Yield.” She will advance on an all-expense paid trip to share her work at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh this May.

“I conducted this project for eight weeks over the summer, and it was funded by the Gatton Research Internship Grant,” Burba said. “Dr. Sarah Emery, an Associate Professor in the University of Louisville’s Biology Department, mentored me in this project. The main goal was to understand why switchgrass, a perennial prairie grass used to make cellulosic biofuel, will usually have no response to fertilizer but on occasion has exhibited a positive response.”

Burba earned the following awards:

  • Top 5 Best of Fair (Paid trip to attend Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)
  • 1st Place – Environmental Sciences; and I-SWEEP Special Award (Invitation to attend the annual International Sustainable World Project Olympiad [I-SWEEP] in Houston, Texas. this May with travel expenses covered.)
  • GE Best of Fair Award (Certificate and $360.)
  • Automotive Science Award Mercedes-Benz Club of America, Bluegrass Stars Section (Certificate, $100, and Invitation to Technical Session with the club.)
  • Naval Science Award – Office of Naval Research (Certificate, medallion, and $50 gift card.)
  • US Geological Survey (USGS) Environmental Science Category (Certificate and medallion.)

Amanda White

Amanda White

Amanda White

White earned second place in Microbiology at the Louisville Regional Science and Engineering Fair for her research, “A Newly Discovered Mycobacteriophage: Adnama.” Under the direction of WKU Department of Biology’s Drs. Rodney King and Claire Rinehart, White began the project as soon as she arrived at The Gatton Academy through the WKU Genome Discovery and Exploration Program. The program leads students through isolating, characterizing, and purification of their own bacteriophage. Later, students annotate genome sequences from annotated bacteriophage.

“I named the phage that I found ‘Adnama’ because it is my name backwards,” she said.

Rena Ryumae

Rena Ryumae

Rena Ryumae

Ryumae won first place in Medicine and Health Science at the Science and Engineering Fair of Northern Kentucky as well as an award from Northern Kentucky University’s Computer Science Department for her interpretation of computer science with her project. Her research, “The Association of Variants in the STAT4/STAT1 Locus in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA),” was conducted during the past two summers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Leah Kottyan.

“I applaud our students who choose to participate in science fairs and competitions, as they commit additional time and effort beyond their college course work,” said Dr. Lynette Breedlove, Director of The Gatton Academy. “By participating in research with WKU faculty, they take advantage of the significant academic opportunities The Gatton Academy and Western Kentucky University provide.”

Other Gatton Academy students who participated in science fairs include senior Dana Biechele-Speziale of Grayson, junior Jenna Ellis of Sparta, and junior Maria Long of Mt. Washington.

Contact: Zack Ryle, (270) 745-2971

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