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Senior Bilyana Petkova took first place and senior Sheldon Saccoman placed third at Beta Beta Beta’s 4-NE District Convention on Saturday

Seniors Bilyana Petkova and Sheldon Saccoman placed first and third respectively for their oral presentations at the biology honorary’s district convention Saturday at Mt. Union University in Alliance, Ohio.

Petkova earned the Brooks Award, the highest honor at the Beta Beta Beta 4-NE District Convention for presenting her research on oral bacteria that could prevent tooth decay. She has the opportunity to publish her work in BIOS, the honorary’s scholarly journal, and she is entitled to attend the honorary’s national convention in 2018 at California State University.

The convention honored Saccoman for presenting his research on the capacity to induce mutations of the active ingredient glyphosate in the weed-killer Roundup. He found that, at a certain concentration, glysophate has properties similar to a known carcinogen after examining it with a comet assay.

“Bilyana was an exceptional researcher and did as much work in three weeks time as some students of mine have done over a six week period,” biology department chairman Frank Steiner said. “Sheldon is a problem solver and managed, pretty much on his own, to figure out how to get his comet assay to work, as some of the published directions were not very accurate.”

Petkova said she was honored to be chosen and plans to submit her work for publication.

“I’m definitely considering and going to talk with Dr. Steiner about the option of submitting my written thesis as an article to be published,” Petkova said. “Hopefully, I will be able to go to the national convention.”

Saccoman said his favorite part of the convention occurred during the Q&A following his presentation. He said the audience was surprised to the extent at which glysophate had chemical properties that cause mutations which may lead to cancer and that he enjoyed seeing Steiner in the audience smiling back.

“After we gave our presentations, he told Bilyana and I that we presented like a couple of graduate students,” Saccoman said.

Each of the students’ presentations lasted 15 minutes and included PowerPoints and animations. The judges provided them with feedback and evaluation sheets, following the awards ceremonies. A poster session also allowed students to discuss their projects with their peers at other colleges and universities in the district.

“It was really exciting to meet other students involved with Tri-Beta and to see their methods of presenting and compare notes as part of the mission statement of Tri-Beta is the dissemination of science and knowledge,” Petkova said.