March 11, 2020
Hood College senior Makhalia Aiken won the Portz Award for best honors student in Maryland at the recent Maryland Collegiate Honors Conference (MCHC), which marks the third year in a row that a Hood student has won the Portz Award. In addition to Aiken, Hood students Amber Meyers, Haley Shuman and Katie Valla also presented at the conference.
At the MCHC, honors students from around the state present their research to students and faculty from four-year and two-year schools in Maryland. Aiken’s paper, “Engineering of Melting Temperatures of Carbohydrate Binding Domains,” described the research she has been pursuing since summer 2019 on the genetic engineering of enzymes used in biofuels production to modify them so they are readily recovered for multiple uses. She also presented this research in the fall at the 2019 UMBC undergraduate research symposium where she won the award for best poster presentation.
“I think if our research is successful and applicable in the real world, it could be significant in helping combat the climate crisis,” she said. “For me, the thought that the research I’m doing can be helpful in some way, even if it’s not on a global scale, is a huge motivating factor to keep working and learning.
“The MCHC conference was a really good experience. I enjoyed hearing presentations from students at other schools in Maryland and being able to exchange ideas about the topics we are all passionate about. I was shocked when I actually won this award because there are so many really talented, passionate and brilliant honors students in Maryland. It was definitely tough competition.”