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Rion wins prestigious award for biochemistry research at international conference

Halie Rion.
Halie Rion

Halie Rion completed her undergraduate career at The University of Texas at Arlington in style, winning a prestigious award at an international conference for her biochemistry research.

Rion earned the Wiley-VCH Poster Award at the 43rd International Symposium on Capillary Chromatography (ISCC), held May 13-17 in Fort Worth. ISCC is the premier meeting for pressure and electrodriven microcolumn separations and related techniques. The event alternates between the United States and Europe each year.

Her winning poster was titled “Fractionation and Separation of Yeast Proteins by Tetrabutylammonium Bromide/Trifluoroethanol Coacervation” and her co-authors were Amir Koolivand, Mohammadmehdi Azizi, Armin Oolumi, and College of Science Dean Morteza Khaledi.

“Receiving the ISCC Wiley VCH Poster Award was incredible honor to be recognized among my colleagues both locally and abroad,” she said. “The focus of the study was to use the unique hydrophobic nature of the coacervate phase to enrich a higher number of proteins, specifically membrane proteins and proteins of low abundance in the cell.”

Rion received a B.S. in Biological Chemistry in May and is now a first-year doctoral student in the UTA College of Engineering, in the lab of Liping Tang, professor of bioengineering. She credits the experience and training she received as an undergraduate for preparing her well for her doctoral studies.

“As an undergraduate in Dean Khaledi’s lab I was exposed to proper lab technique and critical thinking skills necessary for experimental design that I will use throughout my entire career,” she said.

The accomplishment for which she is most proud during her undergraduate career is her co-authorship of a publication in the April 15, 2018 edition of Journal of Chromatography B Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences, which was titled “Fluoroalcohol - Induced coacervates for selective enrichment and extraction of hydrophobic proteins.”

“This is hands-down the biggest accomplishment of my undergraduate career, as not many undergraduates get the opportunity to be published at such an early time in their careers,” Rion said.

Khaledi praised Rion’s work and her accomplishments as an undergraduate.

“Halie did a fantastic job at ISCC and is most deserving of the prestigious Wiley Award,” he said. “Her work in the laboratory has been consistently excellent. She showed the kind of ingenuity and skill that are unexpected for undergraduate students, because they are just starting out and learning how things work. It was a pleasure having Halie as a member of my lab group. I know she is going to do great things as a graduate student and beyond.”

Her doctoral research is focused on the development of new therapeutics for repairing tissue and organ injuries, such as osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis, at an early stage, she said.

“My current strategy is to regenerate injured tissues by targeted delivery of stem cells to the injured tissue using nanotechnology and click chemistry,” she added.

Rion began her undergraduate career in 2015 and served as the College of Science’s senior senator in the UTA Student Congress, where she was also chair of the Academic Committee. In addition, she was volunteer coordinator for the UTA chapter of the Student National Medical Association.

She won first place at the UTA Chemistry and Biochemistry Society Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2017, which earned her a fully funded trip to present her research at the 255th American Chemical Society National Meeting in March 2018 in New Orleans.

She also received the UTA Office of Research Poster Presentation Award at the 2017 Annual Academic Celebration of Excellence in Students (ACES) symposium. The next year, she took second place in the undergraduate poster division at the 2018 College of Science ACES symposium. She also worked as a tutor in the Chemistry Clinic in 2017-18.