Virginia-North Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation

Past Symposia

2018 VA-NC Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium: "Fostering Innovation and Excellence in STEM"

October 14, 2018

The 11th Annual VA-NC Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium Virginia Tech was held October 14 – October 15 in Blacksburg, VA on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Winners of the 11th Annual VA-NC Undergraduate Research Symposium in the oral and poster presentation categories are as follows:


1st Place: Sarai Alvarez, George Mason University
2nd Place: Sophia Upshaw, George Mason University
3rd Place: Taneva Bush, Johnson C. Smith University


1st Place: Constance Staley, Bennett College
2nd Place: Monica Gurung, Thomas Nelson Community College
3rd Place: La’Tricha Parks, Saint Augustine’s University


Keynote Speaker: Alicia Traughber

Alicia TraughberCynthia “Alicia” Traughber is a PhD candidate in Molecular Medicine of Cleveland Clinic/Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. Alicia earned her B.S. in Biology at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama in 2012. While at Oakwood, she worked on her undergraduate research project studying how environmental contaminants negatively impact aquatic organism development. Alicia knew that she wanted to be involved in research so she applied to and was accepted as a summer research intern into to the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP) at Virginia Tech in 2011.

Alicia worked on a project in Dr. Daniel Capelluto’s lab investigating how protein-protein interactions disrupt membrane trafficking and docking. This inspired Alicia to want to learn more about science and how research can be used to study diseases. After completing her undergraduate degree Alicia returned to Virginia Tech into the VT-PREP program where she could begin graduate training and gain more research experience. When she arrived, she was able to help finish the project she worked on during her 2011 summer internship that eventually led to a co-authored 2013 JBC publication. After completing her assignment with Dr. Capelluto, Alicia joined Dr. Isis Kanevsky’s lab in Dairy Science, where she studied immune responses to Staphylococcus aureus-induced mastitis in dairy cows. The work and training that Alicia completed in the VT-PREP program endowed her with the research skills, knowledge, and competitive edge to gain acceptance into the Molecular Medicine PhD Program at Cleveland Clinic/Case Western Reserve University.

She is currently working on her thesis in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Smith in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine Department. Although the primary focus of the lab is to elucidate the mechanisms and pathways of lipid metabolism involvement in cardiovascular diseases, Alicia and her mentor have developed a project investigating the role of HDL lipid metabolism in the proliferation and progression of prostate cancer. HDL is known to be cardio protective, however there is much debate about its protective nature in prostate cancer. The focus of Alicia’s research is to investigate how HDL metabolism, through receptors SR-B1 and ABCA1, leads to pro- or anti-proliferative effects on prostate cancer cells. She is using cutting edge technology, such as CRISRP/Cas9 gene editing, to assist with her ongoing research. Since beginning her work, Alicia has been a recipient of the Carl Storm Under Represented Minority Fellowship for the 2015 Hormone Dependent Cancers Gordon Conference, acquired an NIH NRSA F-31 Diversity Fellowship (2016), and submitted data that was used to secure a Cleveland Clinic Velosano Cancer Research Grant (2017) to support her thesis research.

Once she completes her dissertation, Alicia plans to pursue a Master’s of Education. She acknowledges that her success thus far would not be possible without the support of all the mentors that she has had. As an underrepresented minority, who has been given several opportunities and much support throughout her academics and training, Alicia wishes to be a mentor and educator in efforts to inspire other youths and minorities to pursue college and a future in science too.


View the 2018 VA-NC Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium's flyer

2018 Symposium Booklet

2017 VA-NC Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium: "Developing Critical Thinkers, Innovators & Leaders in STEM"

March 31, 2017

The 10th Annual VA-NC Undergraduate Research Symposium was hosted by Saint Augustine’s University, March 31 – April 2 in Raleigh, NC.  All events were held on the campus of Saint Augustine’s University.

Winners of the 10th Annual VA-NC Undergraduate Research Symposium in the oral and poster presentation categories are as follows:

First Place - Marissa Howard, George Mason University: Application of Hydrogell Nanoparticles for a Latent Tuberculosis Rapid Diagnostic Test
Second Place - Hunter Eason, Elizabeth City State University: Prime Sieves and Their Applications
Third Place - Jabrille Little, Shaw University: Discovery of a novel antibiotic activity from Musa accuminata

First Place - Sydney Henry, Johnson C. Smith University: Is Microglial Morphology Impacted by Particulate Matter?
Second Place - Eddy Lontchi, Virginia Commonwealth University: Development of Methods to Examine Enantioselectivity
Third Place - Maria Vera Alvarez, Virginia Commonwealth University: Assessing detection bias and population decline in a Neotropical community: observation and experimental approaches

First Place Oral Presentations - Francis E. Carrasco Serrano, Guildford Technical Community College: The Simple Things in Cyberlife
First Place Poster Presentations - Paul Nyarko, Guildford Technical Community College: A Life Without Life

The following institutions were represented at the Graduate School Fair, Sat. April 1st:

North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina Central University
North Carolina State University
University of Health Sciences, Antigua
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Tech



Student presentation guidelines
Electronic program booklet
St. Augustine's University campus map


Keynote speaker, Dr. Roketa Sloan

  Roketa Sloan was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma and is from Sumter, SC.  She completed her undergraduate work at Saint Augustine’s University (B.S. 2005). During her time at Saint Augustine’s University, Dr. Sloan was actively engaged in summer research. Dr. Sloan obtained her M.S. Degree in Biology from North Carolina Central University (M.S. 2010) and some of her work was published on the characterization of null and hypomorphic alleles of the Drosophila l(2)dtl/cdt2 gene.  Sloan recently completed her dissertation research in the laboratory of Sue Jinks-Robertson at Duke University (Ph.D. 2016) where her research utilized budding yeast to investigate genomic instability induced by the chemotherapeutic drug, camptothecin, or increased levels of the enzyme, topoisomerase I.  During her time at Duke, Sloan served as the President of both the Bouchet Society and the Black Graduate & Professional Student Association.  She helped coordinate outreach programs at local colleges and universities, promoting the option of a Ph.D. in the sciences to minority undergraduates. She also served as a student coordinator for the Duke Summer Research Opportunity Program.  Sloan was involved in the creation of the Ida Stephens Owen Black Tie Dinner in honor of Duke Graduate School’s first black female Ph.D., designed to highlight the significant achievements of African Americans with a STEM Ph.D. from Duke.  Sloan was awarded a 2014 Samuel DuBois Cook Award and was one of the 2015 Duke University Graduate Young Trustee Finalists.  Sloan is currently at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN completing her post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Mckinnon.  Her research at St. Jude investigates the neurological and disease consequences of topoisomerases (I and II) in childhood neurological diseases.

2016 VA-NC Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium “Navigating Transitions in Your Academic Career”

April 10, 2016


The 9th Annual VA-NC Alliance Undergraduate Research Symposium was co-hosted by Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia on April 10-11 in Charlottesville, VA. Events were held on both campuses. Alliance scholars were encouraged to submit their oral and poster presentations.

Winners of the Research Symposium oral and poster presentation categories















Winners of the Ninth Annual VA-NC Alliance Research Symposium in the oral and poster presentation categories are as follows:


First Place - Dexter Austin, Virginia Tech: Quantitative assessment of NAS symptoms

Second Place TIE -

Bilal Elsayed, George Mason University: Simulator for Automatic Climate Control System

Alia Woffard, Elizabeth City State University: Effects of Antimalarial Pyrimethamine on Embryonic Chickens at Day 9 of Development


First Place - Ciara Spence, Elizabeth City State University: Integrating Reverse Engineering and 3D Printing for Manufacturing Process

Second Place - Brittainy Hereford, University of Virginia: Ventral Anterior Homeobox 1 (Vax1) is Required for Normal Circadian Rhythms and Fertility

Third Place - Darius Carter, University of Virginia: Study of Cetacean Fluke Structure's Effect on Hydrodynamic Performance


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Archie Holmes, Jr.

  Archie Holmes serves as the Vice Provost for Educational Innovation and Interdisciplinary Studies and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. He received his B.S. (highest honors) from the University of Texas at Austin and his M.S. and PhD. degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Prior to joining U.Va. in 2007, Archie was an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin and holder of the Lybarger Endowed Faculty Fellowship. His research interests are focused on the development of novel optoelectronic devices, particularly in the short- and mid-infrared wavelength ranges.  This work has been funded by several federal agencies and he has been actively involved in projects translating his research into the commercial sector. Over his career, Archie has co-authored over 110 referred technical articles and 70 conference presentations. 

Archie has also received numerous awards for his teaching and advising activities. At the University of Texas, he received the Dad’s Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship, the Texas Excellence Teaching Award in Engineering, and the Gordon T. Lepley IV Endowed Memorial Teaching Award.  At the University of Virginia, Archie was an inaugural member of the University Academy of Teaching started by the Teaching Resource Center and received a Hartfield–Jefferson Scholars Teaching Prize in 2012.  Archie also received an Outstanding New Advisor Award from the National Academic Advising Association in 2005 and Trigon’s Thomas E. Hutchinson Faculty Award in 2013.

In his role as Vice Provost for Educational Innovation and Interdisciplinary Studies, Archie’s major responsibilities will include areas related to the undergraduate educational experience, especially in strengthening connections between the schools and between the academic mission and student affairs. He also will work on building the interdisciplinary capacity of U.Va. and further efforts to establish institutes and centers to foster interdisciplinary research and education

Archie serves as a Co-PI of the VA-NC Alliance.

1st Annual VA-NC Alliance Research Symposium

St. Augustine's University

March 31st, 2008

Raleigh, NC-  Students from more than eight colleges and universities from Charlotte to Virginia participated in the annual Undergraduate Research Conference held on the campus of Saint Augustine’s College on Monday, March 31. Students showcased their oral and poster presentations to administration and students during the daylong event. The conference encourages students to research topics and provide oral presentations based on their findings and support materials. The poster presentations allow the students to share their abstract in a casual setting while answering one-on-one questions about the poster.

“Saint Augustine’s College is initiating this conference to promote undergraduate research by providing a regional forum for students to present and receive recognition for their original research and creative endeavors conducted in partnership with faculty and internship mentors,” said Dr. Kim Luckes, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Faculty took part in a workshop led by keynote speaker Dr. A. James Hicks, program director for the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation titled Best Practices for Integrating Teaching and Research. Dr. William B. Harvey, vice president and chief officer for the Office of Diversity and Equity at the University of Virginia served as the keynote speaker for the luncheon. Students also attended a graduate school fair with representing colleges and universities in the VA-NC Alliance, other local colleges and Michigan State University.

The North Carolina Alliance to Create Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill and the Cooperating Raleigh Colleges were also supporters of the conference.

Poster Presentation Winners

First Place:  Kaiem Frink --  Elizabeth City State University

Second Place:  Jade Jones – Johnson C. Smith University

Third Place:  Corey Johnson – Johnson C. Smith University

Oral Presentation Winners

First Place:  Marcus Long, Carol Johnson, Crystal Sanders (Panelist) --  Shaw University

Second Place:  Terrika Foster – Division of Social Sciences – Saint Augustine’s College

Third Place:  Dorothy Vernoy --  Division of Social Sciences – Saint Augustine’s College

2nd Annual VA-NC Alliance Research Symposium

Virginia Tech

April 6th and April 7th, 2009

Keynote Speaker: Bernard A. Harris, Jr., M.D.

Defining himself as a “dreamer who believes nothing is impossible,” Bernard A. Harris, Jr., M.D. is an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and businessman. He currently serves as president of The Harris Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization he founded in 1998 to develop math/science education and crime prevention programs for America ’s youth. Because he credits his personal achievements to self empowerment and self-determination, he uses this foundation to inspire young people that they can do anything, if they only set their mind to it.

Harris himself has accomplished many feats throughout his life. In 1990, he was selected as a NASA astronaut and flew his first mission three years later. A payload commander of STS-63, the first flight of the joint Russian-American space program, Harris accomplished his childhood dream by completing a walk in space, becoming the “First African American to walk in Space”.  At the time of his retirement from NASA in 1996, he had logged more than 438 hours in space and traveled over 7.2 million miles. 

Equally as impressive as his space career, Harris has developed a broad range of business talents. He served as Vice President of SPACEHAB, Inc., where he was involved in business development and marketing of the company’s space-based products and services. He also was Vice President of Business Development for Space Media, Inc., establishing an international space education program for students. In addition, he is a member of the board of some of the leading technology companies in the world. Collectively, Harris has 37 years of total experience in research, management and hardware/product development. He continues to author numerous scientific publications.

A native Texan born in 1956, Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Houston and later obtained a doctorate of medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine. A trained aerospace flight surgeon, he completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic and fellowship  at the NASA Ames Research Center . Other degrees include a Master of Medical Science from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston , a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston Clear Lake and two Honorary Doctorate of Science degrees from Morehouse School of Medicine and Stony Brook University (SUNY).

He holds several faculty appointments including, Associate Professor in internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Harris serves on several federal, state and corporate boards. He is also a licensed private pilot.

Throughout his life, Harris has received numerous awards and recognition, including election as Fellow of the American College of Physicians, NASA Space Flight Medal, NASA Award of Merit, a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and was the recipient of the 2000 Horatio Alger Award.  

Married with one child, Harris resides in Texas with his family.

3rd Annual Virginia-North Carolina Alliance Symposium

Bennett College

April 12th to April 13th, 2010

4th Annual Virginia-North Carolina LSAMP Symposium

University of Virginia

April 13 to April 14, 2011

Source: UVA Today -- The University of Virginia recently hosted minority undergraduates from several colleges and universities in Virginia and North Carolina in a symposium that showcased the students' research projects in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Virginia-North Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation, formed four years ago, is funded by the National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in the so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. U.Va. is the lead school and partners with seven other institutions: Bennett College, Elizabeth City State University, George Mason University, Johnson C. Smith University, Saint Augustine's College, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

The alliance supports minority students by offering a range of activities, including annual symposia, mentoring, workshops, faculty exchanges and summer research experiences.

Almost 100 students, research advisers and mentors participated in the symposium of panel discussions, speakers and a research competition. More than 30 students gave multimedia presentations and discussed their work.

"As the lead institution of the Virginia-North Carolina Alliance, we were thrilled to host the fourth annual symposium here at the University," said Dr. Marcus Martin, U.Va. vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, whose office co-sponsors the alliance program with the University's Center for Diversity in Engineering.

"During the symposium, students described how they are seeking solutions to complex global issues, while in many instances collaborating with peers and grappling with challenging problems," Martin said. "It was wonderful to see that the winners of the poster competition represented a true collaboration of students from three of our partner institutions who conducted research at U.Va. last summer."

The winning team also got to meet U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan at her inauguration luncheon. Jasmine Mays and Anthony Speas from Johnson C. Smith University, Arianna Seabrooks-Matthews of Virginia Tech and Jasmine Drake of U.Va. won first place in the poster competition for their project, "Identification of Molecules Through Experimental and Computational Spectroscopy."

"This was the first research competition I've ever been in, so to win is absolutely amazing," Seabrooks-Matthews said. "The VA-NC Alliance has been an excellent support system for me since my freshman year of college. They have encouraged me to reach out to my professors, other students and faculty. Being in this program has incredibly increased my networking skills and potential."

In addition to the poster contest, students competed with oral presentations.

U.Va. student Alan Molina won second place for his presentation on research to develop a synthetic skin graft, made of nanofibers, for wound healing. He worked with Edward Botchwey, associate professor of biomedical engineering and orthopaedic surgery, and Rebekah Neal, a graduate student in Botchwey's lab.

"Conducting research at U.Va. has taught me how to think actively about the material I cover in class by asking probing questions," Molina said. "It has also taught me how to digest and synthesize large quantities of information gathered from published research."

Setting his sights on a medical career, Molina will participate in the U.Va. School of Medicine's Summer Research Internship Program.

School of Engineering and Applied Science professor Carolyn Vallas, who directs the Center for Diversity in Engineering, said, "The faculty judges of varying STEM expertise were impressed with the high level of research that the students had conducted and their ability to articulate what they had done to both technical and non-technical attendees."

Other sessions at the symposium included a panel of U.Va. graduate students who talked about their own graduate school experiences, "to inspire and engage participants into thinking about their future academic journey," Vallas said.

Luncheon speaker Rosalyn S. Hobson, a "triple 'Hoo" with degrees in electrical engineering, also described her academic journey to becoming associate dean for graduate studies and associate professor of electrical engineering at VCU. She urged students to give back, find and be a mentor, and be unafraid to take advantage of new opportunities.

Vallas said the VA-NC alliance is successful due to the devoted mentors and advisers who work "day-in and day-out" with the students.

"These persons motivate, encourage and provide guidance for alliance students, so that they can successfully pursue their dreams of becoming a future STEM professional," Vallas said.

The contest winners were:

• Poster competition
First place: Jasmine Mays and Anthony Speas, Johnson C. Smith University; Arianna Seabrooks-Matthews, Virginia Tech; Jasmine Drake, U.Va.
Second place: Jamie Wright, U.Va.
Third place (tie): Michaila Latore, Virginia Tech; Juliana Cano-Mejia, U.Va.

• Oral Competition
First place: Merischia Griffin, Johnson C. Smith University
Second place: Alan Molina, U.Va.
Third place: Marianna Cruz, George Mason University

— By Anne Bromley

5th Annual Virginia-North Carolina LSAMP Alliance Symposium

Johnson C. Smith University

March 25 to March 26, 2012

Johnson C. Smith University will be hosting the 5th Annual Virginia-North Carolina LSAMP Alliance Symposium beginning Sunday, March 25, 2012 - Monday, March 26, 2012. The symposium will host Faculty, Staff, and Undergraduate Students from each of our alliance partners (University of Virginia, Bennett College, Elizabeth City State University, George Mason University, St. Augustine's College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University), to further our goals of increasing the quality and quantity of underrepresented minority (URM) students successfully completing undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and who are well-prepared to pursue graduate school and careers in the STEM fields.

VA-NC LSAMP is a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored program with the mission to significantly increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Undergraduate research is a key focus of the LSAMP program and the conference will allow undergraduate students from all eight university campuses the opportunity to present research to conference attendees as well as members of the JCSU community. In addition to the poster session, students and staff will lead and attend workshops focusing on increasing community among URM students in STEM, getting involved in research and internship, and preparing for post graduate opportunities. 

7th Annual VA-NC Alliance Research Symposium

Elizabeth City State University

April 6 to April 7, 2014

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Daphne Y. Rainey

 Dr. Daphne Y. Rainey recently joined North Carolina Central University (NCCU) as Director of the new Integrated Biosciences PhD Program. Before joining NCCU, she served as Executive Director of STEM Advancement and Special Assistant to the Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at NC A&T State University where she worked to create a continuum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for grades 9-12 through undergraduate studies. Dr. Rainey brought her passion for STEM education from her work at the National Science Foundation.  As Program Director with the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education, Dr. Rainey served to develop faculty and institutional capacity in current trends in undergraduate education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at the undergraduate level. There, she served as program lead for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring Program and as one of the team of program directors for the Math and Science Partnership Program dedicated to developing science and math capacity at the K-12 grade levels by incorporating University faculty. Prior to her work in STEM education, Dr. Rainey was a Bioinformatics Researcher at Virginia Tech, and in the plant biotechnology industry in The Netherlands. She received her PhD in Biology from the University of Colorado, and graduated with Bachelor of Science from the University of Minnesota. 

8th Annual VA-NC Alliance Research Symposium

George Mason University

March 29 to March 30, 2015

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Mark J. T. Smith

Mark J. T. Smith received his B.S. degree from MIT and his Ph.D. degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology, all in Electrical Engineering. He joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) faculty at Georgia Tech in 1984, where he remained for the next 18 years. Although he worked primarily on the Atlanta campus, he also spent several terms during 1991-93 on the European campus in Metz, France.  Smith also served a four year term as the Executive Assistant to the President of Georgia Tech during his time there. In January, 2003, he joined the faculty at Purdue University as Head of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. A current member of the board, Smith has been engaged with the national ECE Department Heads Association, where he has served as Secretary/Treasurer, Vice President, and President from 2005-2008.

In 2009, Smith was named Dean of the Purdue University Graduate School. Presently, he is a member of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee for the Council of Graduate Schools and a member of the GRE Board of Directors. Additionally, Smith is the Co-PI and architect of the CIC AGEP grant titled “Professorial Advancement Initiative,” is a member of the Purdue University ADVANCE team, and was the former PI of the Midwest Crossroads AGEP grant.

Smith’s scholarly interests are in the area of digital signal processing. Over the years, he has supervised and graduated 30 Ph.D. students. He holds the Michael & Katherine Birck endowed chair in ECE at Purdue, is a Fellow of the IEEE, and is a former IEEE Distinguished Lecturer.  He has six patents and has authored or co-authored more than 260 publications, including six international standards publications. Smith is the co-author of two introductory books, Introduction to Digital Signal Processing and Digital Filtering; co-author of the graduate level textbook, A Study Guide for Digital Image Processing; co-editor of the book, Wavelets and Subband Transforms; and editor of a new book, GPS for Graduate School – Students Share Their Stories.

In addition to professional service, teaching, and research, Dr. Smith’s past includes training and competition in the sport of fencing. He was a national champion of the United States in 1981 and 1983 and is a two-time member of the U.S. Olympic team (1980 and 1984).

Congratulations to the following 2015 presentation winners!

Oral Presentations

First Place - Olivia Leaven, Bennett College, Serious Psychological Distress Disparities by Sex and Age

Second Place - David Vasquez, Virginia Tech, Examining the relationship between dominance status and disease transmission in house finches

Third Place - Alia Woffard, Elizabeth City State, Early Effects of Chloroquine in Embryonic Chickens


Poster Presentations

First Place - Korey Smith, Johnson C. Smith University, Examining working memory capacity and neural activity in prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices

Second Place - Ama Agyapong & Tanviben Patel, Elizabeth City State, Optical Properties of Niobium (Nb) and Tantalum (Ta) Doped Vanadium Dioxide (VO2) Thin Films

Third Place - Tai'Brionne Dozier, Johnson C. Smith University, Developmental Cannabinoid Exposure Alters MAP2 and Nf-200 Expression in Zebra Finch Song Regions