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April 8, 2008

Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
News and Information
The University of Texas at Tyler

UT Tyler Biology Students Recognized at Meeting

Two University of Texas at Tyler biology students recently won certificates and cash prizes at this year’s regional Southwestern Branch Meeting of the Entomological Society of America in Fort Worth, Dr. Blake Bextine, assistant professor of biology, announced.

Danielle Tufts of Sacremento, Calif., a second-year graduate student, received second place along with a cash prize of $100 for her presentation titled “Discovery of a Genetically Different Form of the Solenopsis invicta virus (SINV-1) in East Texas.”

Natalie Vitovsky of Tyler, an undergraduate senior, took third place and a cash prize of $50 for her presentation titled “Improved Xylella fastidiosa genotype differentiation using DNA melt temperature (Tm) analysis.”

They both assist with work in Bextine’s laboratory on various research projects funded by federal, state and corporate grants.

The meeting in February included attendants from universities in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Texas and Mexico. Students in the 10-minute oral presentations contended with 16 other undergraduate, masters and doctorate students.

“I like to see our students do so well in a competition like this because it makes all the hard work that they have put into the research worth the extra hours,” said Bextine, who has employed more than 25 UT Tyler students in the past three years. “It is a win-win situation. Students gain valuable research experience, and I get hard-working, highly-motivated labor that helps to move the research laboratory forward.”

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

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