two students

Two students nationally recognized for research presentations

Two students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) received second-place awards for research posters they presented at the world’s largest gathering of osteopathic physicians.

Third-year student Sarai Arbus and second-year student Katherine Goh will each receive $250 for successfully presenting their posters at the Osteopathic Medical Education Conference (OMED), an annual event hosted by the American Osteopathic Association that brings together thousands of osteopathic physicians, medical students and other health professionals. This year’s conference, a virtual event that took place Oct. 22-24, showcased 75 student posters.

Arbus, a native of Haymarket, Va., serves as a WVSOM graduate teaching assistant in addition to her studies.

Her prize-winning poster, “High Fat Diet and High-Intensity Interval Training on Appetitive Regulation in a Rat Model,” was co-authored by four other WVSOM students and by faculty member Christopher Pankey, Ph.D. It summarized the findings of research on rats that were separated into groups, with some receiving high-fat diets and some receiving normal diets. The rats were further divided into groups that were made to perform high-intensity interval training exercises or that received no exercise. The study found that rats on the high-fat diet ate more in response to exercise, while those receiving a normal diet ate less in response to exercise.

Arbus praised WVSOM for offering opportunities for students to participate in research and scholarly activity, and said Pankey helped mentor her in presenting her work in front of an audience.

“He was a huge help,” Arbus said. “It was my first time presenting a poster, and Dr. Pankey and I went through every aspect of the paper to make sure I fully understood everything. We met the day before the presentation and talked through some of the different questions that might come up. I was surprised at how well I was able to answer the judges’ questions because I’d done so much preparation.”

That preparation, Pankey said, helped her stand out in OMED’s highly competitive environment.

“Sarai has worked in my lab during the past year and has been a part of every stage of this long process,” Pankey said. “Thanks to her desire to be continuously involved, she developed a deep understanding for the model, techniques and intricacies involved with research. As a result, she demonstrated an outstanding depth of knowledge during her presentation and was able to discuss her research eloquently and efficiently. Communication is a skill that even leading scientists struggle with, and Sarai’s execution, coupled with extraordinary preparation, set her apart.”

Goh’s poster, “Evaluating the Structure and Function of Cysteine Residues of the Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Nucleotidyl Cyclase Type Three Secreted Effector ExoY,” was co-authored by WVSOM faculty member Marc Benson, Ph.D. Goh and Benson examined a protein excreted by a common bacteria and studied whether the protein might be modified to someday create a new pharmaceutical treatment for conditions such as hypertension.

Goh, who came to WVSOM from Canandaigua, N.Y., had experience giving presentations as an undergraduate student, but it was her first time at a national conference. She said she found the experience educational.

“I learned that the key to a good presentation is that, even if you’re studying something very esoteric, you still need to make a connection with the audience. It would be easy to get bogged down in the weeds, but you want to make it as relevant to people as possible,” Goh said.

Benson commended Goh for being able to quickly learn various laboratory techniques and for her role in bringing attention to WVSOM’s research at the conference.

“Katherine was a pleasure to conduct research with,” he said. “She began by purifying modified ExoY proteins using biochemical techniques, then compared their enzymatic activities and structures to determine which protein retained activity and could be used for the next step in the project. Based on her abilities in the lab, I’m not surprised Katherine was recognized at OMED, and I’m proud that she represented WVSOM well at a national conference.”