UAB math, public health undergraduate students shine at international research conference

Undergraduate students won awards for their research in virtual reality and child safety and in stabilization of proteins.

ACUR3Kerri TangTwo University of Alabama at Birmingham students tied for first place for the Best Poster by an International Student at the 2019 Australasian Conference of Undergraduate Research. Kenneth Davis and Kerri Tang presented their posters at the conference in October and received a cash prize.

Davis, a Selma, Alabama, native, presented on the important role electronegative clusters play in the stability of proteins. His research found the occurrence of negatively charged clusters in RNA-binding proteins are not random and serve as a key element in protein stability. The poly-acidic, negatively charged tail is effective at protecting the protein from denaturation but offers little support toward the refolding process.

“The conference offered an amazing opportunity to connect and communicate with researchers in Australia,” said Davis, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree in math and chemistry, with a minor in Japanese, alongside his master’s degree in math. “I was able to experience another culture while also learning more about the various kinds of research being conducted overseas.” 

ACUR5Kenneth DavisTang, a Hoover, Alabama, native, presented on how virtual-reality training enhances children’s working memory, processing speed and visual-spatial memory. Her research found that training children to cross streets in virtual reality was associated with significant improvement in working memory, processing speed and visual-spatial memory. The results suggest cognitive-skills training might lead to safer child pedestrian behavior and virtual reality could improve cognition skills that extend beyond the primary goals of virtual reality. 

Tang is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health with a concentration in global health and fast-track master’s degree in public health, with a focus on maternal and child health leadership and policy.