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Colonel B. Ledford Grant Awarded to Two King University Students

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 27, 2017 – King University’s Sonia “Sunny” Kennedy and Samantha Cole were awarded the Colonel Lee B. Ledford Scholarship by the Appalachian College Association (ACA) of $6,049 each. The scholarship funds provide recipients with funds to perform summer research across a variety of fields.

Kennedy, an Abingdon, Va., native and junior majoring in Biology, and Cole, a native of Coeburn, Va., and senior majoring in Biology with a cellular and molecular focus, will work alongside Dr. Kelly Vaughan, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of the Biology Department at King University, to identify genes that are associated with protection against Parkinson’s disease.

“Our ultimate goal is to get students involved and invested in their education, and this is just one additional aspect of their education,” said Vaughan. “In Sonny and Samantha’s case, I had invited them to join a research methods class in the [Biology] Department. The class is for select students who have an aptitude for research and a questioning, investigating mind. The Ledford deadline was the first or second week of class. When I shared the opportunity, [Sunny and Samantha] jumped at the chance.”

Cole said, “Dr. Vaughan gave me a great opportunity by inviting me to take the research methods class. Most medical students have research experience before attending medical school. This provided me an opportunity as an undergraduate to dive into the research aspect and see where it takes me.”

“Research makes you ask questions you might never ask in a regular classroom setting,” Cole added. “This summer’s research might push me more towards medicine or possibly towards research. But, the goal is medical school.”

Kennedy also shared her enthusiasm for the coming research. “Researchers have noted nicotine has some protective mechanisms with the neurodegeneration that has occurred with Parkinson’s. We hope through our research this summer to be able to identify some genes by utilizing the Biology Department’s DNA sequencer.”

In addition to her studies at King University, Kennedy currently works as a pharmacy technician. “I’ve had quite a bit of experience on the medical side of health, and I wanted to explore the research side. This is a great opportunity for me to work with the neurodegeneration that occurs with Parkinson’s disease and gain a better understanding of the whole process,” said Kennedy. “After graduating, I plan to go to Pharmacy school. I haven’t yet decided if I will focus more on retail pharmacy or pharmacological research.”

“Seeing the excitement both Sonny and Samantha have for the coming research project makes the hard work all worthwhile,” exclaimed Vaughan.

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King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.