August 31, 2018

Birla Carbon Scholars Recognized

Junior Hope Didier wins top award during fifth annual symposium

Kennesaw State University (KSU) junior Hope Didier’s research project in the McMurry Lab into stopping the spread of cervical cancer cells won the Top Poster Award at the Birla Carbon Symposium, at which the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) officially recognized the 10 new Birla Carbon Scholars.

Photo of Dr. Mark Anderson, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics (left) and Hope Didier, the top poster award receipent at the Birla Carbon Symposium (right)

(ABOVE) Photo of Dr. Mark Anderson, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics (left) and Hope Didier, the top poster award receipent at the Birla Carbon Symposium (right).

“Providing deeply impactful learning opportunities is a high priority at Kennesaw State University. The rapidly expanding opportunities for undergraduate research at KSU have become valuable experiences for students across the university,” said Kennesaw State President Pamela Whitten, who addressed the large gathering in the Carmichael Student Center’s University Rooms on the Kennesaw Campus. “Opportunities for discovery offer an exciting trajectory for our students, whether they are research in a lab, exploration in a community setting or creation in a studio. Congratulations to our outstanding ten Birla Carbon Scholars.”

Didier of Peachtree City, took the top prize for her research involving the design and subsequent delivery of viral proteins into living cervical cancer cells, which, with future exploration, may serve as a potential alternative option for the treatment of cervical carcinomas.

“I spent the summer doing research that involved the delivery of a viral protein into the cancer cells via a cell-penetrating adaptor system,” she said. “My research showed certain proteins could cause the death of the cancer cells.”

Didier plans to continue her research at KSU, using confocal microscopy to assess the efficacy of different proteins. After she graduates in 2020, she hopes to attend medical school and continue her work in the clinical research field.

Along with the $4,000 stipend each scholar received, Didier received an additional $2,000 in travel funds to present her research at a national or regional conference of her choice.

The scholars program was launched in April 2014 with a $250,000 pledge from Birla Carbon for a five-year annual gift of $50,000 to support research opportunities for CSM students. Each year, 10 students receive a $4,000 stipend for summer research in science, mathematics or physics.

This year, scholars worked side-by-side with faculty researchers on projects ranging from gene manipulation in epithelial cells in human kidneys to gene expression in cancer cells, from energy storage performance of synthesized porous carbon materials to worker safety in energy production, and more.

“Many of our students are not able to explore summer research programs because they must work full time between the spring and fall semesters,” said CSM Dean Mark Anderson. “This stipend allows them time and financial freedom to expand their research skills outside of the classroom and continue Kennesaw State’s tradition of academic excellence.”

“We are grateful to Birla Carbon for partnering with KSU to give these students the opportunity to focus full time during the summer on their research activities,” Anderson said. “The impact of the program is apparent by the outstanding work the students are presenting today, and by what past participants have accomplished since their summer as a Birla Carbon Scholar.”

Group photo (left to right) of Terence Norman, Dr. Pamela Whitten, John Loudermilk and Dr. Mark Anderson

(ABOVE - left to right) Photo of Terence Norman (Birla Carbon's director of human resources), Dr. Pamela Whitten (KSU President), John Loudermilk (Birla Carbon's Chief Operating Officer) and Dr. Mark Anderson (Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics).

Anderson joined Whitten in presenting Birla Carbon officials with the KSU Partnership Award in recognition of the firm’s commitment to the advancement of scientific inquiry among CSM students.

In accepting the honor, Birla Carbon’s Chief Operating Officer John Loudermilk marked the event’s fifth year by announcing the renewal of the scholarship program for another five years.

“At Birla Carbon, we take a humble approach to work together to collaborate to build on each other’s strengths to make the world a better place,” Loudermilk said. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Kennesaw State, and we are very grateful for all the Birla Carbon Scholars who are benefitting from this unique program. Five years ago, Dean Anderson came to us about launching this program, and as we are now completing this our fifth year, we look forward to continuing this relationship for another five years.”

“Without students willing to do this kind of work, this partnership between Birla Carbon and Kennesaw State University would not be possible,” said Loudermilk. “Like us, you share a passion to learn, to do research and to innovate.”

Since 2014, funding provided by the Marietta-based chemical manufacturer has allowed 50 Birla Carbon Scholars to participate in summer research opportunities. Loudermilk said several Kennesaw State graduates are currently working at the firm’s Marietta lab and technology center.

Birla Carbon, a flagship business of the $45 billion Aditya Birla Group, is the world's leading sustainable manufacturer and supplier of carbon black additives.

Loudermilk and Terence Norman, director of human resources, along with several judges from Birla Carbon, reviewed the students’ posters summarizing their research.

“These are all very impressive projects that the students were given the opportunity to work on full time, thanks to the generous support of Birla Carbon,” Anderson said.

Photo of Birla Carbon student, Michael Reynolds, presenting his research at the 2018 Birla Carbon Symposium

(ABOVE) Photo of Birla Carbon student, Michael Reynolds (right), presenting his research at the 2018 Birla Carbon Symposium

This year’s scholars and their faculty mentors include:

Birla Carbon Scholar

Sarah Beauvais

Olivia Brooks

Hope Didier

Trae Dunn

Liana Gerhardt

Daisy McGrath

Kimberly Meyberg

Michael Reynolds

Sagi Sharier

Alyssa Venn

Faculty Mentor

Ramya Rajagopalan

Anton Bryantsev

Jonathan McMurry

Martin Hudson

Altug Poyraz

Tsai-Tien Tseng

Thomas Leeper

David Joffe

Meghan Burke

Joe DeMaio

Applicants for the annual scholarship must be freshmen, sophomores or juniors during the spring semester in which they apply for the program and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to the scholars program, funds from the Birla Carbon gift will be used to provide research supplies needed for faculty assisting students and supplies needed for the end-of-the-term symposium.

About Birla Carbon

Birla Carbon is the world’s largest manufacturer of carbon black, which is used to make everything from tires to plastics to electronics. It is a flagship business of the $45 billion Aditya Birla Group, a multinational conglomerate based in Mumbai, India. Birla Carbon's Technology Laboratories are located in Marietta and Mumbai.