Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

International Proteolysis Society honors alumna for malaria research at general meeting in Greece

The post graduate endeavors of Beth Ponder ’04 have taken her to new heights and new places. She was recently awarded the Biochemical Journal Young Investigator Award for the best scientific poster presentation at the fifth general meeting of the International Proteolysis Society Oct. 20-24 in Patras, Greece.

“The meeting included both academic and industry researchers studying the structure, function, and regulation of proteases,” explains Ponder. “Proteases are a class of enzymes that process other proteins. They are known to play a role in many biological functions and diseases including cancer progression and pathogen invasion.”

Ponder is now a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the department of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University after studying biochemistry and a second individualized major, cultural biomedicine, at Lafayette. She is currently researching a causative agent of human malaria called Plasmodium falciparum as a potential target for antimalarial drugs. Her research is being supported by a three-year Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

As an undergraduate, Ponder performed EXCEL research with Bernard Fried, Kreider Professor Emeritus of Biology, and Joseph Sherma, Larkin Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, investigating the physiology of a parasitic flatworm known as Echinostoma caproni during the summer of 2002. Her research was supported by a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Senior Scientist Mentor Program award. Ponder used a chemical method called thin layer chromatography to research how Echinostoma caproni uses amino acids to regulate its metabolism in various environments.

Ponder, Fried and Sherma coauthored articles on their research that were published in Parasitology Research and Journal of Helminthology, two highly esteemed scientific journals. Because of this research, Ponder was also selected as one of just 10 undergraduate students in the nation to participate in a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) program. During the program, which took place the summer of 2003, she conducted research in Claremont, Calif., at the Keck Graduate Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research in Biotechnology and Bioengineering. There, she worked to develop a faster, more cost-efficient method of screening cancer drugs for toxic or beneficial effects. She also received a Goldwater Scholarship in 2003.

Ponder describes her exceptional research experience with Fried and Sherma as foundational to her work for her Ph.D.

“Working with Drs. Fried and Sherma as both an EXCEL scholar and for my honors thesis really helped prepare me for graduate school,” says Ponder. “They allowed me to get experience in all aspects of the research process, from project design through preparing manuscripts for publication.

“Both Drs. Fried and Sherma were always extremely positive and really took the time to work with me one on one,” she continues. “They also gave me the opportunity to work with and train newer undergraduates as they joined the group. The spirit of a group effort within the lab and collaborative projects between Dr. Fried in the biology department and Dr. Sherma in the chemistry department helped me develop both confidence and skills that have greatly contributed to my success in graduate school.”

Ponder explains that she is drawn toward laboratory research and public health efforts regarding control of malaria and other parasitic diseases that disproportionately impact developing countries. After she receives her Ph.D., she plans to enter either the field of science policy or public health to help promote research and funding for research and treatment of parasitic diseases.

During her time at Lafayette, Ponder was a Marquis Scholar, McKelvy Scholar and a member of the American Chemical Society, Jazz Ensemble, and Flute Ensemble.

Categorized in: Alumni, News and Features
Tagged with: , ,