SHU students win awards at science symposium

Two Seton Hall students won best presentation awards at the 5th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in Biological and Chemical Sciences on April 16 at William Paterson University.

Senior Charles Defendorf won first place for best general chemistry presentation, and sophomore Edward Twomey won second place for best biochemistry presentation.

Defendorf was also awarded a $280 travel stipend from the Chromatography Forum of Delaware Valley to present his research at the Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting symposium in Maryland. Twomey was given a $400 travel stipend to present his research at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Defendorf is working in John Sowa’s lab while Twomey has worked in Yufeng Wei’s lab since the fall 2009.

Sowa is an associate professor in the department of chemistry and biology. Wei is an assistant professor in the same department.

The symposium is hosted yearly to create a network of undergraduate researchers, according to Twomey. Over 15 colleges were represented this year.

According to the symposium’s website, seven research categories were represented: biochemistry, physiology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, ecology and evolution, nanochemistry, and general and material chemistry.

“Everyone hosting the symposium was very gracious, welcoming, and professional making the day all the more enjoyable,” Defendorf said.

According to Twomey, over 50 presentations were given and then judged by faculty members.

Twomey said the competition and awards were a good way for him to gain experience and showcase his research.

“I chose to enter the competition because I thought it would be a good way to showcase my research to my fellow peers and gain necessary experience in presenting my research,” Twomey said. “I feel that the travel stipend … will help me reach a greater audience with my research and allow me to meet fellow peers in my field as well.”

According to Twomey, his presentation, titled “NMR Dynamics of PED/PEA-15 Protein Reveals Novel Binding Patterns with ERK2,” analyzed how certain proteins are regulated by other proteins.

“This research can provide much insight into cancer,” Twomey said.

Twomey also presented research into elements that are important in inflammation, arthritis and asthma.

“This research is potentially important for understanding a wide range of diseases and conditions,” Twomey said.

Wei said Twomey’s research represents individual and collaborative teamwork within his (Wei’s) lab.

“Ed is a talented student full of passion and dedication,” Wei said. “Ed performed extremely well, and demonstrated his potential in scientific research… I [am fully] confident that he will excel [in] his future research career.”

Twomey plans to attend next year’s symposium. Eventually, he wants to obtain a Ph.D. in structural biology.

According to Sowa, as a graduating senior, Defendorf will be awarded the Biochemistry Medal this year.

“Charles has worked in my research lab for all of his four years at Seton Hall,” Sowa said in an email. “He has been a pleasure to work with and has made great progress in all of his research projects.”

According to Sowa, Defendorf directed research projects of three freshmen students, saying that is “clearly a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate student.”

According to Wei, only Twomey and Defendorf were representing Seton Hall at the symposium.

Defendorf did not return further requests for comment by press time.

Jessica Card can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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