Kennesaw State Celebrates Birla Carbon Scholars

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jan 22, 2021

Basirat Olorunlambe
Basirat Olorunlambe

Kennesaw State University senior Basirat Olorunlambe’s research on the use of bacteria to reduce infections from MRSA, an infection caused by drug-resistant Staphyloccocus bacteria, in healthcare facilities, won the top award at the College of Science and Mathematics Birla Carbon Symposium. The annual event recognizes 11 student scholars and their research.

“Our Birla Carbon Scholars reflect the depth and breadth of undergraduate research opportunities available in the College of Science and Mathematics, as well as the dedication and expertise of their faculty mentors,” said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. “I congratulate all of the scholars for their outstanding accomplishments.”

The 11 scholars were chosen based on the recommendations of College of Science and Mathematics faculty members, submission of an undergraduate research project abstract, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Recipients worked with their sponsoring faculty members on their proposed research projects in five different departments within CSM.

The 2020 Birla Carbon Scholars, their majors and their mentors are:

  • Scholar                            Major                   Faculty Mentor
  • Soobin An                       Biology                 Anton Bryantsev
  • Preston Eldridge             Biochemistry         Thomas Leeper
  • Oliver Erasmus               Chemistry             Christopher Dockery
  • Ian Foster                       Physics                 Kisa Ranasinghe
  • Gracyn Jewett                Physics                 David Joffe
  • Ansa Malik                     Biology                 Jonathan Lyon
  • Pavan Mayinampati        Mathematics         Glenn Young
  • Basirat Olorunlambe      Biochemistry         Ramja Rajagopalan
  • Abeer Osman                 Biology                 Jonathan McMurry
  • Minh Vo                         Biochemistry         Michael Stollenz
  • Brittny Vosper                Biochemistry         Rajnish Singh

Since 2014, funding provided by Birla Carbon, a worldwide chemical manufacturer, has allowed 72 Birla Carbon Scholars to participate in research opportunities. In 2019, Birla reaffirmed its commitment to the program by extending the agreement for another five years and adding $275,000 to the commitment. Terence Norman, director of human resources at Birla Carbon, said the company looks forward to this event every year to showcase young scientists.

“Our Birla Carbon/Kennesaw State partnership continues to provide a platform for deserving STEM majors to conduct summer research and development,” he said. “Although the 2020 program was delayed and redesigned, the most important facet of the program was successfully achieved. Each scholar completed many hours of research and presented their results via virtual presentations. Congratulations to the 2020 Birla Scholars for displaying exceptional dedication, perseverance and stamina.”

Normally, the experience takes place over 10 weeks in the summer, but the coronavirus pandemic shifted the students’ research to the fall. The pandemic also rendered the annual symposium a virtual event in spring semester, a change from the poster presentation that typically takes place at the beginning of the fall semester.

The Birla Carbon Team judges awarded Olorunlambe, who works in the laboratory of assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology Ramja Rajagopalan, for her research project, titled “The Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Crisis: Overcoming Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) by Myxobacterial Predation.” She said Dr. Rajagopalan helped her find a focus for her project that sparked her desire to positively impact the medical community worldwide.

“My research centers around separating wild-isolate strains of a unique predatory bacterium called Myxo, which is found in soil, and using its distinctive ability to dissolve other bacteria to successfully prey on the pathogenic MRSA,” said Olorunlambe, a biochemistry major. “The goal is for this project to lead to more effective antibiotics to be used for treating severe infections caused by MRSA in healthcare facilities.”

Along with the $4,000 stipend each scholar received, Olorunlambe received an additional $2,000 in travel funds to present her research at a national or regional conference of her choice. She said she expects those conferences to take place virtually, and she’ll make her presentation this summer.

About Birla Carbon:

Birla Carbon is the world’s largest producer and supplier of carbon black additives, which are used to make everything from tires to plastics, from paints to electronics. A flagship business of the $45 billion Aditya Birla Group, the multinational conglomerate based in Taloja, India. Birla Carbon’s Technology Laboratories are located in Marietta and Taloja, India.


– Dave Shelles

Photo submitted

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