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New Award Honors Top URECA Presenter Kevin Chavez

Sigma xi
Kevin Sanchez receives his award from David Tonjes, president of Sigma Xi (photo by Glenn Jochum).

The gathering may have been small but the award itself was prestigious — an inaugural award for outstanding undergraduate research sponsored by Sigma Xi, a national non-profit research (invitation only) membership society of nearly 60,000 scientists and engineers. Students competing for the award had to be seniors with demonstrated research talent who were presenting at the annual campus-wide URECA (Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities) research exhibition, which had a record 310 projects this year according to URECA Director Karen Kernan.

Kevin Chavez, who is also being recognized as a Chancellor and Provost Award recipient, took the top prize of $500, sponsored by Sigma Xi.

Kevin, a biochemistry major, has been a member of the research laboratory of Laurie Krug in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology since 2012. He investigated the role of cellular protein APOBEC3 on the herpes virus life cycle in hopes of understanding the interaction between host and virus, which can ultimately lead to new anti-viral breakthroughs. Kevin’s project recently got published in the Journal of Virology, where he became the second author. Kevin has also worked with Victor Jin at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. This study dealt with combining two drugs, which are predicted to produce a synergistic effect that will either inhibit or kill breast cancer cells with little or no side effects.

In addition to URECA’s poster symposium, Kevin has presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in California where he won a best poster presentation award in cancer biology. He is a certified emergency technician for the Centereach Fire Department, serves as a Spanish translator for the Stony Brook School of Medicine HOME Clinic and is a member of the CHOICE program (Choosing Healthy Options in a College Environment).

Award recipients (front row, L-R) Akshat Puri, Kevin Chavez, Samuel Kinney and Sheena Mago, with (back row, L-R) Nana Minkah, Laurie Krug, David Conover, Harvard Lyman, David Tonjes and Yizhi Meng (photo by Glenn Jochum).

In an intimate ceremony held at Harriman Hall, certificates were also awarded to students Samuel Kinney, Sheena Mago and Akshat Puri for their URECA presentations. David Conover, interim vice president for research, explained the importance of undergraduate research by saying that publication of his findings as an undergraduate helped to launch his career while he was attending a small liberal arts school in Florida.

“I came to Stony Brook in 1981 before we had any programs like URECA,” said Conover, “but I have always involved undergraduates in my research. I do a lot of field and experimental work in marine science and it requires lots of help from students. Thankfully, undergraduate research is now an essential part of the fabric of Stony Brook and it’s hard to imagine how we could exist without it.”

— Glenn Jochum

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