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King University Students Selected as 2021 Ledford Scholars

May 25, 2021
Ledford Scholars Caroline Hawkins, Rebekah Thomas and Sydney Bailey are researching the effects of gluten and artificial sweeteners in the body. Their projects are being conducted under the tutelage of Kelly Vaughan, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biology, and made possible via support from the Appalachian College Association (ACA).

BRISTOL, Tenn., May 25, 2021 — Four undergraduate students from King University’s College of Arts and Sciences have been named 2021 Ledford Scholars, and are currently pursuing research projects ranging from the digital preservation of historical archives to the effects of artificial sweeteners on the digestive system.

The scholarships are made possible by the Appalachian College Association (ACA), and offer financial support for significant summer research projects to undergraduate students from all disciplines who are enrolled at ACA member institutions.

“The Ledford Scholarship provides a unique opportunity for students to conduct mentored research, where they gain experience in grant proposal writing, planning and conducting experiments, and presenting their research,” says Kelly Vaughan, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biology. “While undergraduate students at larger universities typically play a small role in a project, King’s students are able to develop their own questions and take ownership of their projects. This opportunity is life-changing for students, opening doors and career paths to which they would not otherwise be exposed.”

Each project is being conducted during the summer of 2021 with the assistance of a faculty mentor.

The projects of juniors Caroline Hawkins, Sydney Bailey, and Rebekah Thomas focus on research utilizing C. elegans, a small, non-parasitic organism. Hawkins, a Biology major, is exploring the relevance of C. elegans in the study of Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder which causes the body to attack itself when exposed to gluten in the diet. Both Bailey and Thomas are Cell & Molecular Biology majors, and are studying the effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on lipid metabolism in C. elegans, building on research initiated by a previous King student. All three students plan to attend medical school following graduation from King.

Senior Stacey Horton, an English major, is creating an archive of digital, searchable artifacts of Appalachian women that will be integrated into the ACA’s Digital Library of Appalachia. Horton is pursuing her K-12 teaching licensure and plans to attend graduate school after completing her degree.

“Through the Ledford Scholarship, students are challenged to develop crucial digital humanities skills that will position them well for future graduate work, complicated research projects, and grant writing,” says Erin Kingsley, Ph.D., associate professor of English in King’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Archival work is an expanding facet of English studies, and Stacey’s project will ensure that future English majors are given the opportunity to gather their own archival materials, learn how to digitize them, enter metadata for inclusion in a searchable database, and preserve these delicate pieces of our region’s history for generations to come.”

More information about the Ledford Scholar program is available at