TAHLEQUAH --- In the hallways of the Oklahoma State Capitol on Feb. 23, chatter didn’t focus on unemployment rates, real estate foreclosures, or the plight of our nation’s economy in general. Instead, noble topics addressing fuel efficiency, healthcare and sustainability took center stage as 19 undergraduate students from 12 Oklahoma universities presented their scholarly works during Research Day at the Capitol.
Maegan Dallis, Northeastern State University senior majoring in cellular biology, won grand prize at this year’s event for her research on antibiotic resistance. She will receive $500 plus a $4,000 summer research internship at her choice of labs in Oklahoma.
“We at Northeastern State are delighted that Maegan's research project was recognized at this year's Research Day at the Capitol. I applaud her and her faculty mentor, Dr. Cindy Cisar, for their accomplishment and for modeling the way for others,” said NSU President Dr. Don Betz. “Undergraduate research is one of the preferred pedagogies for the 21st Century. In an era of challenge and global competition, creativity in all fields is essential for success and prosperity. Maegan's recognition acknowledges her work and persistence and challenges all of us to provide learning environments that actively encourage creativity, imagination and discovery. Such a culture of learning directly benefits Oklahoma and our country and all of us."
Dallis became interested in her area of research in spring 2007 while taking a microbiology class with Cisar, assistant professor of Biology at NSU. After the initial class ended, Cisar invited Dallis to continue working as a lab assistant doing prep work for other classes. Their collaboration culminated when Cisar invited her to apply for a position in her research lab in May 2008.
“Maegan is a very intelligent young woman with a very professional approach to her research,” said Cisar. “This was clearly evident in her presentation at Research Day at the Capitol.”
Since May 2008, Dallis has invested a considerable amount of time working on the Impact of WWTP Effluent project, studying the antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations of freshwater ecosystems.
“The incredible learning experience this project offer was reason enough for me to strive for one of those prestigious spots, but the knowledge I have gained over the past 10 months is enough to last me a lifetime,” said Dallis. “I have gained not only valuable skills with microbiological procedures, but also friends and memories along the way. The experiences I have now had with poster presentations, from Oklahoma Research Day 2008 and Research Day at the Capitol have prepared me for future academic endeavors in countless ways.”
Dallis joined in competition with undergraduate peers from Oklahoma State University, Cameron University, Langston University, OU Health Sciences Center, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, East Central University, Redlands Community College, University of Central Oklahoma, The University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma.
“More than anything I would just like to congratulate the 17 other participants, for I knew firsthand the incredible accomplishments they had already made just to advance to that point,” said Dallis. “Being chosen as the one research student to represent each Oklahoma university was an incredible honor bestowed upon us.”
With months of research behind her, along with the support of her mentor, Cisar, and her family, Dallis was ready to present her research to the judges on the day of the competition.
“The competition was fierce. I gave it my all, and apparently in the end, the hours of data compilation, poster preparation and speech writing must have paid off,” said Dallis. “As Chancellor Glen Johnson read through the list of winning names, I was in a daze of sorts, constantly reminding myself that the experience alone was more than I could have ever asked for.”
When her name was announced as the grand prizewinner, Dallis was overcome with a mix of emotions ranging from excitement and anticipation to hesitation and fear of the unknown.
“It was indeed a joyous moment as I shook his hand and accepted the most important piece of paper I think I have ever received,” said Dallis. “With my seemingly limited experience with poster presentations, and even public speaking for that matter, I never dreamed that I had reached the point yet in my academic career to win a competition of this nature.”
The annual event is sponsored by The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which is funded through the National Science Foundation. Oklahoma EPSCoR’s central goal is to increase the state’s research competitiveness through strategic support of research instruments and facilities, research collaborations, and integrated education and research programs.
Maegan is the daughter of Cheryl Askew, of Claremore, and Randy Askew, of Nacogoches, Texas, and the granddaughter of Jerry Brasier, of Claremore. She and her husband, Bobby Dallis, reside in Tahlequah.