SCF Students Present Research Findings at American Society of Microbiology Conference

(Bradenton, Fla. June 5, 2014) — State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) microbiology students Roxana Perez, Stephanie Morgan and Charles Stach III presented scientific findings based on research they conducted during Yale University's Small World Initiative at the American Society of Microbiology Conference this summer.

Led by Natural Sciences Instructor Dr. Eric Warrick, SCF was one of 25 colleges and universities nationwide that participated in the Yale pilot project, which engages students in authentic scientific research that addresses one of the most serious modern health threats: antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Warrick gave a presentation at the conference about using evidence-based practices in his microbiology class as part of the Small World Initiative.

Under Warrick's instruction, SCF students searched for and identified antibiotic-producing bacteria in soil and other environments. They collected soil, cultured bacteria from the soil, tested bacteria for antibiotic activity and verified antibiotic production.

Perez, Morgan and Stach were selected from 25 SCF microbiology students to attend the American Society of Microbiology Conference, where students from other Small World Initiative college and university partners also displayed posters and presented their findings based on samples they collected from diverse environments nationwide.

Morgan, who searched for bacteria in Sarasota Bay along the mangroves, discovered an antibiotic-producing bacteria in the Vibrio genus. She enjoyed meeting other students at the conference.

“It was really interesting to see other people’s success with the project and to talk to them about the differences in how they collected and analyzed their samples. I went kayaking to get my samples, and they used a butter knife to cut through the frozen ground,” Morgan said.

Morgan was named SCF’s Outstanding Student in Biology and graduated with an Associate in Arts from SCF in May. She was one of 53 out of 800 students nationwide to be selected to participate in University of Minnesota’s Life Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program this summer. She plans to attend New College this fall and later pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry or molecular biology and work in research.

Perez collected samples from Tampa Bay and several locations in Bradenton and discovered bacteria in the Bacillus genus. She was excited to share her results at the conference after participating in a class that allowed her to conduct authentic research. Perez, who plans to graduate with an Associate in Arts in Spring 2015 and study veterinary science at the University of Florida, will use the skills she learned in class during her future studies.

“This course required a lot of work, but it’s more worthwhile because you are working with the unknown. It's preliminary research, but it's still very important. Discovering a novel antibiotic can make a real difference,” she said.

Stach also presented findings at the conference based on samples of the Pseudomonas genus he collected from Alafia River State Park in Lithia, Fla.

“It was really a great experience to be around such brilliant people involved in the Small World Initiative, and it opened my eyes to how the biotechnology and microbiology industries overlap. I also was able to network with professors from graduate programs at major universities,” he said.

Stach, who is pursuing an Associate in Science in Biotechnology degree from SCF, has already applied his knowledge to the real world. He is using genetic testing in his personal training business, Stachtraining, to help his clients improve their nutrition and succeed in their fitness goals. After graduating in Spring 2015, he plans to go on to a university and later earn a Ph.D. in Genetics.

Further testing of SCF students’ samples will be conducted to identify the chemical structure of the antibiotic analysis in collaboration with Small World Initiative partners.

The Small World Initiative's primary investigator is Dr. Jo Handelsman, professor of biology at Yale University, co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and associate director for science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The co-principal investigator and project facilitator is Dr. Tiffany Tsang, postdoctoral associate for the Center for Scientific Teaching at Yale University.

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Stephanie Morgan
Stephanie Morgan

Roxana Perez
Roxana Perez
Charles Stach III


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