Derek McFarland

A Harris-Stowe State University senior studying biology won first place in the Ecology category for his undergraduate oral presentation at the ERN Conference in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

Derek McFarland, 23, a National Institute of Health-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases STEP-UP fellow was one of 22 Harris-Stowe students who attended the ERN Conference.

“Last summer, I collected ticks at the Tyson Research Center as a part of the Adalsteinsson Ecology Lab and Boon Lab,” McFarland said. “The purpose of my research was to determine the prevalence of Bourbon virus, a recently emerging pathogen first discovered in Bourbon County, Kansas.”

The most recent case was in 2017, where a Missouri woman contracted Bourbon virus and died of her critical symptoms, according to KSDK.

“I am currently conducting research in the Boon lab using ‘wet lab assays’ to search for the presence of the virus in the ticks,” McFarland said. “My research stipend is supported by the Missouri Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MOLSAMP).”

McFarland credits his first place victory to his research advisers, Dr. Adrianus Boon and Dr. Solny Adalsteinsson.

“We are so proud of Derek for this win; he has worked hard and clearly excelled at both his research and his ability to communicate it,” Adalsteinsson said. “A natural leader by example, he sets the tone for the rest of the students in the lab with his positivity and keen sense of humor, and he patiently helps train younger students.”

Along with his research advisers, Dr. Tommie Yvette Turner, Director of the Institute for Science and Mathematics, congratulated McFarland on his recognition.  

“I am extremely proud of Derek’s research accomplishments as an emerging scientist,” Turner said. “He’s definitely ready for graduate school, to earn his doctoral degree and eventually establish his own research lab.”

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