Graduate School

The University of Mississippi

Biological Science, Behavioral Neuroscience Students Chosen as 2017 Class Marshals

By Nathan Towery

Photo By Nathan Towery

Each year, the Graduate School selects two outstanding doctoral students to serve as class marshals. The class marshals for the spring 2017 hooding ceremony were Tim Colston, who earned his Ph.D. in biological science, and Hannah Marie Harris, who earned her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience.

Prior to coming to the university, Colston received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in zoology, from the University of Oklahoma. He came to the University of Mississippi to work with Brice Noonan, associate professor of biology and his major adviser.

Colston’s dissertation research focused on investigating ecological and evolutionary influences on the gut microbiomes of reptiles, primarily snakes, and what role the gut microbiome plays in community assembly.

“I think I benefited from being in a smaller department where most faculty have an open-door policy and are open to collaboration,” he said. “When I first started my Ph.D., I wanted to study community assembly in tropical snake communities, but by interacting with other faculty I quickly incorporated studies on gut microbiomes into my research long before many other people were looking at the gut microbiome of nonmodel organisms.”

Colston is now a National Science Foundation postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University. He is helping to develop new phylogenic trees for reptiles that will be used to test broad evolutionary hypotheses regarding trait evolution. He will be conducting fieldwork in Colombia and Ethiopia later this year.

Photo By Nathan Towery

Harris received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi. She enrolled in the terminal Ph.D. program at the university to work under Kenneth Sufka, professor of psychology and pharmacology, and was awarded a master’s degree along with her Ph.D.

In her research, Harris looked at the effects of a cannabidiol analog in combination with ineffective doses of opioids to see if they produce synergistic effects.

“Essentially you’re just taking two drugs that are ineffective and putting them together, you’re getting this really high analgesic response, yet there is no rewarding value … like morphine without any abuse liability,” she said.

Harris said she feels lucky to have worked in professor Sufka’s lab and to have the opportunity to work with many undergraduate students.

“We have like a family with the undergrads. The most rewarding thing is to work with undergrads and see them come up with ideas to run their own projects.”

Harris hopes to obtain a postdoctoral position researching novel analgesics that are void of abuse potential.