Tarleton State University student wins award for research presentation

By: Nicholas Ratcliff

Multimedia Journalist

Tarleton State University’s very own Shady Kuster recently won The Bobby Baker Award for a presentation she gave about the research she has been conducting. This award was given to Kuster by the Texas Society of Mammalogists (TSM) during a conference where students from across Texas come to present their research.

During an interview, Kuster revealed that she had originally come to Tarleton as a Pre-Vet major, but quickly changed her major after attending a Convention at the University of Texas Southwestern where she found out that she could pursue research as a career. Kuster decided to get involved with Dr. Pfau’s research over population genetics where she began to study four different populations of gophers.

During this research, Dr. Pfau and Kuster realized that between these four gopher populations, there was a different family history between the nuclear genome and the mitochondria. This essentially meant that these gophers were the same species, but the mitochondrial genome had made them look like a different species. It was Kuster’s objective to validate the mitochondrial dataset and prove that this had happened.

After a year of working on this project, Kuster was finally ready to present her research at the TSM Conference where she had a shot at winning the Bobby Baker Award which is given to the best oral presentation in mammalian molecular biology, evolution or systematics by an undergraduate student.

While giving her speech, Kuster stated, “I was really nervous, but once I started talking, I fell into my routine and it was really exciting to share my research with people who would understand.”

Kuster goes on to say “It was really interesting to see the other cool projects presented. I was shocked and excited when I won the Bobby Baker Award, and everybody was so supportive.”

Kuster plans to pursue her PHD in Genetics and offered this advice to anyone interested in research.

“Research is something that is very obtainable so don’t be intimidated. People love talking about their research so reach out. I would also like to express my gratitude. I am very thankful I got this opportunity,” Kuster said.

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