UHV biology undergraduate presents research on pomegranate leaves

Kelly Gibson

University of Houston-Victoria student Kelly Gibson recently became the first undergraduate student to present research for the UHV biology department at the annual Texas Association of Microbiology conference in New Braunfels.

The conference brings together biology students from around the state to share their experiences in research through lectures and presentations. Gibson’s presentation helped establish UHV as an institution where undergraduate research is not only encouraged, but recognized.

Gibson, a Gonzales resident, presented a poster and a 10-minute oral presentation to judges on her research about the inhibitory effects of pomegranate leaves on E. coli bacteria.

“I was a little nervous speaking with the judges, but the fact I’d actually done the work, done the research, made it easier,” she said. “I just told them what we did, what the purpose of our research was and why it was important, but it wasn’t just me. The entire plant biology lab was involved, and Karen Pierce, our teaching assistant, helped tremendously. I just presented the information.”

The research being conducted at UHV could prove invaluable. The inhibitory properties of pomegranate leaves already are being studied for possible application in the fight against cancer cells.

“Our plant biology professor, Siva Somasundaram, already knew about the inhibitory properties of the actual pomegranate fruit, but the leaves hadn’t been studied much in research,” Gibson said. “He was the one who brought the leaves into the lab. We got to experience all of this because of him. We’re finding new ways to fight diseases without drugs, and our research shows the leaves also inhibit fungi. That’s huge because fungi are the really tough ones to eliminate.”

Gibson's study took three weeks to complete, and she volunteered to present the information at the conference, where she gained crucial insight and experience.

“In biology, when you do research, you have to know how to present your ideas and get them published so other scientists accept your work,” she said. “This conference helps undergraduate students like me prepare for the research they’ll be doing in the future. You get to meet with other students and hear their ideas. There were some really neat presentations at this conference. It really opens your mind to all the different fields you could study.”

Gibson, a nurse since 1993, will graduate cum laude on May 15 from UHV and join the physician’s assistant graduate program in the fall at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.

The UHV Outstanding Student is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact UHV Communications Manager Paula Cobler  or call 361-570-4350.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.