Gemstone Honors Program

Gemstone Students Travel to New Zealand

Gemstone students Julia Wainger (2016, Team BASIC)and Pradip Ramamurti (2017, Team MTB) will travel to the University of Auckland in New Zealand to attend the 2015 Universitas 21 Undergraduate Research Conference: Peoples and Places, which is held on July 6-10. Wainger and Ramamurti will be joined by Dr. Zhengguo Xiao (, mentor of Team BASIC and Associate Professor of Animal and Avian Sciences in the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. The conference, organized by a different university and on a different topic each year, fosters early international networking and showcases innovative student research. The three delegates’ participation in this event is funded through the Office of International Affairs.

Universitas 21, the group that organizes the annual conference, consists of 25 member research universities that hail from 16 different countries. The University of Maryland is one of the member research universities. The focus of Universitas 21 is to promote innovative research with a global perspective in the 21st century.

At the conference, Wainger, a senior Cell Biology & Genetics major with a minor in Public Leadership, will give an oral presentation in which she will discuss BASIC’s project and findings. Over the last few years, BASIC has been researching the effects of pH manipulation on the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy, specifically Adoptive Cell Therapy.

Ramamurti, a junior Neurobiology & Physiology and Psychologydouble major, will present MTB’s research and findings to date through a poster presentation. As member of MTB, Ramamurti and his team are researching the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the main causative agent of human tuberculosis. The team plans to screen a drug panel to identify inhibitors of protein-protein interactions important to virulence, in the hopes of finding a potential new treatment for tuberculosis that can eventually advance to clinical trials and patient treatment.

When asked about what they are most looking forward to about their experience, Wainger says she is excited to share ideas with fellow student researchers and to explore the beautiful city of Auckland, and Ramamurti says that he is excited to meet new people and gain new perspectives about the project.

Gemstone is no stranger to the Universitas 21 Undergraduate Research Conference. In 2013, Dr. Kristan Skendall, Associate Director of the Gemstone Program, attended the conference at the University of Amsterdam with students Jason Burtnick (2015, Team AWE) and Kevin Li (2014, Team MEGA). Last year, Erin McCaffrey (2016, Team ATTENT) and Dr. Thomas Castonguay, mentor of Team ATTENT and Professor of Nutrition and Food Science in the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, attended the 2014 conference at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In fact, McCaffrey won an award for Outstanding Oral Presentation.

Gemstone wishes Julia and Pradip luck and hopes that they enjoy this incredible experience!