Augusta students impress at conference

Department of Chemistry and Physics Students at the SERMACS conference

Students and faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Physics in the College of Science and Mathematics had a strong presence at the recent Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS), held at the Augusta Convention Center from Wednesday, Oct. 31 through Saturday, Nov. 3.

Students had the opportunity to attend all symposia, including some arranged particularly for undergraduates. Eight students were able to present their research at oral and poster sessions.

  • Kevin Sutherland, senior chemistry major, spoke about his research with Christopher Klug, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Physics, on the “determination of niacin and its metabolites in human blood plasma.”
  • Hitesh Honkanadavar, senior chemistry major, presented research done in collaboration with Siva Panda, assistant professor of chemistry, on “NSAID hybrid conjugates: potential drug candidates.”
  • William Littlefield, senior cell and molecular biology major, spoke about his research with Panda on “Pyrazinoic acid-isoniazid hybrid conjugates as potential anti-infective agents.”
  • Elizabeth Adams, senior chemistry major, presented research done in partnership with Angela Spencer, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Nevin Lambert, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Georgia, on “unconventional coupling of 5HT7 receptors as Gs heterotrimers.”
  • Riham Bokhtia, graduate student in Panda’s lab, presented research on “fluoroquinolone hybrid conjugates as potential pharmacophores.”
  • Israa Seliem, graduate student in Panda’s lab, presented a poster on “synthesis of amino-acid-based spiro-indoles and Schiff base complexes as potential biological agents.”
  • Maheen Farooq, senior cell and molecular biology major, gave a poster presentation on her research with Spencer and Lambert on “characterization of G-protein coupling to serotonin receptors 5-HT2B and 5-HT4 using BRET.”
  • Angel Weather, senior chemistry major, presented a poster on research conducted in collaboration with Iryna Lebedyeva, assistant professor of chemistry, on “synthesis of novel ceramide analogs.”

These students, as well as members of the Augusta University Chemistry Club, competed against universities across the southeastern United States in a chemistry quiz bowl and a student demonstration competition.

In the chemistry quiz bowl, Augusta students competed in a round robin, single elimination tournament against students from the University of Florida, Furman University and the College of Charleston.

“They made it to the finals of the tournament, and took home second place after a very, very competitive round,” said Dr. Brian Agee, chemistry lecturer.

For the student demonstration competition, American Chemical Society (ACS) chemistry club student chapters developed innovative activities for K-12 students and exchanged demonstration ideas with other student chapters.

Students at the demo competition

“During the session, the student chapters presented their demonstration, explaining the technique and how they successfully used it for teaching purposes for students,” Agee said.

Augusta students presented an oscillating, color-changing reaction.

“Though they did not take first place, I think that they won the ‘wow factor’ award,” Agee said. “As the event was taking place, I was walking around and spoke with several people who attended the competition and almost all of them mentioned the Augusta University demonstration.”

The SERMACS conference hosted over 1,500 chemists. A conference of this size cannot be successful without volunteers, and 26 of the volunteers were Augusta students. The students worked the registration table, greeted attendees, organized inventory and helped customers at the ACS store, dressed up as the ACS mascot, told visitors about the importance of sustainability and the “greener meeting” pledge, took photos of the conference and helped set up the competition events.

Department of Chemistry and Physics faculty were also active conference participants.

Dr. Brian Agee, chemistry lecturer
  • John Sutherland, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, gave a presentation in the “Frontiers in Nucleic Acid Chemistry” session titled “Linear Dichroism of DNA: Characterization of the Orientation Distribution Function Caused by Hydrodynamic Shear.”
  • Panda and Tom Crute, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, attended and presided over medicinal chemistry sessions.
  • Stephanie Myers, professor of chemistry, was on the conference organizing committee as the exposition chair.
  • Agee was also part of the organizing committee as the chair of the of the conference’s undergraduate program. In addition, he presided over the undergraduate “green chemistry” session and gave introductory remarks for the plenary speaker, Dr. Dale Ensor.
  • Klug aided in the preparation of the oscillating reaction used in the student demonstration competition; Spencer attended, organized and presided over a biochemistry session and Lebedyeva served as a poster session judge.

The SERMACS annual conference brings in chemists from Kentucky to Florida and Mississippi to the Carolinas. It is the largest of the ACS’s regional meetings. Augusta University was a conference sponsor with contributions from the Research Department, College of Science and Mathematics and the Department of Chemistry and Physics.

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Written by
Brennan Meagher

Brennan Meagher is a communications coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her at 706-446-4806 or

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Written by Brennan Meagher

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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