Two Mercer Students Selected to Present at World Congress on Undergraduate Research

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Khurana and Xhemali

MACON – Mercer University juniors Sachin Khurana and Jack Xhemali were recently selected to present at the second World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WCUR) to be held May 23-25 at the University of Oldenburg in Germany.

WCUR aims to bring together the world’s best undergraduate research and to work on some of the most significant challenges the global community is facing today. Last held in 2016, the congress only accepts 400 research proposals worldwide. Anna Cizek and Alayna Williams represented Mercer at the inaugural World Congress for Undergraduate Research in Doha, Qatar.

Khurana, from Macon, is a triple-major in finance, economics and management with minors in mathematics, statistics and philosophy. His research analyzes how changes in public investment can dampen private investment and ultimately affect national economic growth.

His abstract accepted by WCUR is titled “The Asymmetric and Nonlinear Impact of Public Investment on Economic Growth.”

This research recommends short-run and long-run public policies to best allocate a finite amount of available resources between the public and private sectors for maximum economic growth.

Khurana has been pursuing this research under the guidance of Dr. Geoffrey Ngene, associate professor of finance in the School of Business and Economics.

“It is an honor and a privilege to represent Mercer on a global stage,” said Khurana. “I would like to thank the University, the Stetson School of Business and Economics and my mentor Dr. Ngene for their extensive support in making this opportunity possible. I hope the research presented at the conference stimulates debate and thought surrounding the current economic policies enacted across the world.”

Khurana is a member of the Mercer men’s tennis team, president of the Financial Management Association and lead analyst of the Student-Managed Investment Fund. He is also president and founder of the Bear Market Newsletter, a peer tutor and supplemental instructor for the Academic Resource Center, a member of the Student Government Association’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, a contributor to The Cluster student newspaper and a member of Delta Sigma Pi Professional Business Fraternity.

A Presidential Scholar and member of the University Honors Program, Khurana has made the President’s List every semester at Mercer. He has received funding from Mercer’s BB&T Center for Undergraduate Research in Public Policy and Capitalism, been a finalist in the Mercer Innovation Center’s Next Big Idea competition and presented at numerous academic conferences. He has studied abroad in the Dominican Republic through Mercer On Mission, as well as in the United Kingdom and Greece, and participated in internships with Stifel Financial, Raymond James Financial, Operation HOPE and SCORE Mentors.

Xhemali, from Alpharetta, is a biology major and chemistry minor on the pre-med track. His research explores the karrikin transduction pathway, which has significance in understanding plant germination and also how plants react to stress.

His abstract accepted by WCUR is titled “A mutant screen of smax1 smxl2 to achieve a better understanding of the karrikin reception pathway.”

Karrikins occur in smoke and were first identified as small molecules that promote seed germination. The pathway by which plants sense and respond to karrikins has since been implicated in how plants respond to high temperature, salinity and osmotic stress. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of plant stress responses may be important for breeding resilient crops to meet the demands of changing climates.

Xhemali has been pursuing this research since his freshman year in the lab of Dr. John Stanga, assistant professor of biology in the College of Liberal Arts.

“I’ve been working on this research project for more than two-and-a-half years, so to be given the honor of presenting at such a prestigious conference feels amazing, especially after all the long hours I’ve put into the lab,” said Xhemali.

A Presidential Scholar and Honors Research Scholar, Xhemali is also participating in research related to 3-D printing a cadaver, as well as service projects coaching a high school robotics team and creating a 3-D yearbook that is accessible to blind students.

This past year, he participated in the Mercer University Biomedical Scholars (MUBS) Program, presented at the SoCon Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) and received the Graydon L. Ware Award from the Biology Department in recognition of academic excellence, campus activity and community service.

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Kyle Sears