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Undergraduate Researcher Awarded for Outstanding Publication

Undergraduate Researcher Awarded for Outstanding Publication

Abigail Jones was selected as the 2023 recipient for the Award for Outstanding Publication by an Undergraduate Researcher. smiling woman

During Research Week, the WVU Office of Undergraduate Research presented Abigail Jones with the Award for Outstanding Publication by an Undergraduate Researcher. 

Jones, a senior biochemistry major and Honors College student, was recognized for the paper “ Independent evolution of a lysergic acid amide in Aspergillus species ,” which was published in and featured on the cover of  Applied and Environmental Microbiology in December 2021.

Alongside faculty mentor Daniel Panaccione, Davis-Michael Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Jones works with ergot alkaloids, chemicals produced by fungi and notorious for contaminating grains and grasses agriculturally. When modified, however, ergot alkaloids are also commonly found in pharmaceuticals used to treat migraines, dementia and other disorders.

Prior to her research, one such class of ergot alkaloids, lysergic acid amides, was only known to be produced by the Clavicipitaceae family of fungi, many of which are difficult to culture and manipulate.

However, Jones discovered that three species of fungi within the genus  Aspergillus also have the capacity to produce lysergic acid amides.

“Aspergillus species are super fast growing and really easy to genetically manipulate,” she said. “For pharmaceutical production, having something that you can easily manipulate and grow very quickly would make a very complex process easier than it is now.”

Jones led the project from initiation to publication, including data collection, phylogenetic analyses, writing, figure preparation and engaging in the peer-review process.

“I’m proud of Abby for her creativity and commitment,” Panaccione said. “She started the bioinformatic part of her project remotely during the original COVID shutdown, then later developed the biochemistry skills to confirm the predictions of her bioinformatic work. The impact of Abby’s research has extended beyond her publication because it has spawned exciting new projects for several other students in our lab. What Abby has accomplished during her time in my lab has exceeded my expectations of any student.”

Jones was selected as a   Beckman Scholar in 2021 and plans to attend WVU School of Medicine in the fall of 2023.


Honorable Mentions:
The review panel also wishes to commend two submissions with honorable mention. Both contributions were outstanding and deserving of recognition, particularly for the contributions of the undergraduate researchers as authors.

Student Ben Luikart (Finance) and mentor Joshua Hall (Economics)

Ben Luikart, Joshua C. Hall & Joshua Martin (2022) Determinants of Voting on Education Savings Accounts: Evidence from Tennessee, Journal of School Choice, DOI: 10.1080/15582159.2022.2132589
Student Isabelle Nesbit (Industrial Engineering) and graduate student mentor Makenzie Dolly (Keepers)
Keepers, M., Nesbit, I., Romero, D., & Wuest, T. (2022). Current State of Research and Outlook of Gamification for Manufacturing. Journal of Manufacturing Systems, 64(2022), 303-315. DOI 10.1016/j.jmsy.2022.07.001


smiling woman    smiling man  

Abigail Jones (pictured left) and her faculty research mentor, Dr. Daniel Panaccione (pictured right).