New Paltz chemistry students win first place in scientific research poster competition

May 10, 2011
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First Place Winners: Marnell Miles ’11 (Chemistry) and Yan Li ’12 (Chemistry)

First Place Winners: Marnell Miles ’11 (Chemistry) and Yan Li ’12 (Chemistry) Credit: Reena DePaolo

Miles Marnell (Chemistry, ’11) and Yan Li (Chemistry, ’11), secured first place in the research poster competition (natural sciences section) at the 19th Annual Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program Student Conference held in Bolton Landing on April 2.

Their poster’s title was “The Insecticidal Properties of Terminalia arjuna against Drosophila melanogaster” (Miles Marnell, Yan Li, Preeti Dhar (Chemistry), Aaron Haselton (Biology)). A few weeks earlier, March 27, Marnell was one of six undergraduate students nationwide to be awarded a $1,000 travel grant to present the research findings of his work and poster at the 241st American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

This event showcases the research talents of undergraduate students and provides a professional forum for presenting their research, as well as promoting their continuance of education in the areas of food and agricultural chemistry. After Marnell and Li delivered their presentation, Marnell was approached by several people including a senior executive of a New Jersey fertilizer company.

Marnell Miles ’11 (Chemistry) and Yan Li ’12 (Chemistry)

Organic Chemistry: Marnell Miles ’11 (Chemistry) and Yan Li ’12 (Chemistry) Credit: Reena DePaolo

Marnell’s work developed from his senior research project and was prompted by both his fascination with natural product chemistry and his longtime interest in organic gardening. Under the guidance of New Paltz’s Professor Pretti Dhar, (Chemistry) he investigated the natural antibiotic properties of Terminalia arjuna, a tree known to be beneficial to humans and used extensively in Ayurveda,  an ancient Indian medical system.

His research proved that the natural extracts from the Terminalia arjuna tree have significant insecticidal effects. In addition to the practical application of this research, it provides a scientific explanation for the long-standing benefits ascribed to this tree in ancient medical observations.

His project was a cross-disciplinary investigation with input from the insect expert Assistant Professor Aaron Haselton (Biology). Such cross-fertilization between chemistry and biology are ongoing and benefit both disciplines and their students.

Marnell’s supervisor, Professor Preeti Dhar recognizes Marnell’s enthusiasm and research panacheMiles was a joy to work with. He needed very little instruction and had a big role to play in the completion of this project. We hit some major road blocks but were able to overcome them and continue with the project.”

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