Biology Dept. News

Student News:

Thomas Ferri (B.S. in Biology candidate) received the Spring 2015 Student Government Association Undergraduate Research Fund to support his Independent Study and Research on microbiomes in tropical bats.  Tommy will travel to Belize to examine the quantity and quality of gut microbes by diet type across several tropical bat species.  His data will help explain relationships between microbiomes and bat physiologies, species radiation and ecological niches.  This project is supervised by Dr. Miranda Dunbar and in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Roberts.

Christopher Wisniewski (B.S. in Biology with Certification candidate) received the Spring 2015 Student Government Association Undergraduate Research Fund to support his Independent Study and Research on White-nose syndrome (WNS).  WNS is a highly infectious fungal disease that is killing millions of bats in the U.S.  The spread and mortality is so great that it is predicted that once common species will become extinct from our region.  Chris will examine WNS from a variety of perspectives in hopes to culminate data and create innovative conservation strategies and thus help direct habitat/species management practices.  This project is supervised by Dr. Miranda Dunbar. 

iGEM logoSCSU Biotech Club members are now in the process of forming an iGEM team to compete at MIT for fall 2015. iGEM is the "International Genetically Engineered Machine" competition where interdisciplinary (usually Math, Physics, Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry) student teams perform a Synthetic Biology project over the summer to create or redesign genetic 'circuits' in living cells that allow the cells to perform a useful function for humans. If you are interested in joining the team, please contact Dr. Edgington, or the Club President by email, or come to their meeting. The team needs to begin fund-raising soon in order to cover the entry fee. 

 Congratulations to undergraduate biology students Jasper Larioza, and Gabriel Hamal, who were both accepted to the Summer Medical and Dental Enrichment Program (SMDEP) at Yale University!


SCSU Undergraduate Researcher, Kirsten FamigliettiCongratulations to one of our Undergraduates, Kirsten Famiglietti, who was awarded an  American Society of Plant Biologist Summer Undergraduate ResearchFellowship to do research in the Silady lab. She will be doing an enhancer/suppressor screen of the gravitropism defective2 mutant in Arabidopsis. The award will provide her with a stipend, money for supplies, one year membership in ASPB, and travel money to present her research at the 2015 ASPB annual conference. She was 1 of only 12 recipients in the country, and 1 of 5 from a 'predominantly undergraduate institution'.

Spring 2015 Club meeting times:

All Majors are welcome for all of the clubs!


Faculty News:

Did you know that the SCSU Biology Dept. is involved in TWO

National educational programs?

     Both programs seek to engage undergraduates and promote retention through performing authentic research that is embedded within a course (also called a 'CUR', 'CURE', or 'CRE').  Both courses in addition to providing content, seek to address a current real-world global problem, and fulfill degree program requirements in the ''Cell/Molecular" content category. 

     The 'Small World Initiative' (SWI) seeks to address the increasing problem of antibiotic resistant 'superbugs' or bacteria, by having students isolate soil microorganisms that may produce new antimicrobial products. The program was created at the Yale Center for Scientific Teaching. Dr. Roberts directs and incorporates the SWI program in the course BIO233 General Microbiology I for the first time this spring 2015, and annually thereafter.

     The second program is called  "SEA-PHAGES" and was created by Dr. Graham Hatfull and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's  Science Education Alliance division. The SEA-PHAGES acronym stands for "Science Education Alliance's Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science", and it is "a two-semester, discovery-based undergraduate research course that begins with simple digging in the soil to find new viruses, but progresses through a variety of microbiology [& molecular] techniques, and eventually to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses."   
After administering and teaching two SEA-PHAGES Honors courses for four years, Dr. Edgington will be offering the SEA-PHAGES program to Biology Majors in two new courses (BIO 298 Genomics I, & BIO386 Genomics II).  SCSU freshman students have already isolated nearly 60 novel bacterial viruses called 'bacteriophages' through the program.  BIO 298 'Genomics I' will be offered for the first time this Fall 2015 term by 'Instructor permission required', so please email Dr. Edgington if you:

    (1) are a Freshman or Sophomore who plans to take both courses sequentially  
'Veracruz'- A phage isolated by a SCSU student!
                       (2) have taken BIO102 or BIO103  ( BIO220 recommended)  
    (3) have an interest in contributing data to an international program through lab-based research.     
    (4)  want to become a SCSU Phage Hunter!  



The Biology department has a NEW International summer course
(BIO327 Field Natural History in Belize, 3 credits, 2015) available for student registration for ecological studies with Dr. Dunbar in Belize. The course is at the Lamanai Outpost Lodge  in northwestern Belize in the Orange Walk District, which is nestled in the jungle on the bank of New River and adjacent to the Lamanai Maya Archeological Reserve.  The course for summer 2015 is currently full and has a waiting list. Contact Dr. Dunbar for additional details and questions.



Welcome NEW BIOLOGY FACULTY members:

     The department welcomes three new faculty members, Dr. Meghan BarbozaDr. Michael Fisher, and Dr. Rachel Jeffrey! See the Faculty/Staff webpage for more details.
     
Dr. Barboza holding a baby manatee
Dr. Barboza's
research interests include chemical signaling in aquatic mammals and microanatomic comparisons of chemoreceptive organs. Her overarching research question is 'How do aquatic mammals locate potential mates?' Her PhD research focused on the anatomic description of structures related to taste and smell in the Florida manatee as well as potential expressive organs such as anal glands. In addition Dr. Barboza completed behavioral research to determine whether male manatees can detect changes in female manatee urine from different reproductive states. Currently she is completing histologic examination of manatee facial and intraoral structures and is beginning to collect samples from other marine mammals including seals and cetaceans.


Dr. Fisher
has broad training in Microbiology. His graduate thesis focused on the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis with an emphasis on respiratory infections. During his first postdoctoral fellowship he studied genetic variation in M. tuberculosis. Over the past several years he has changed research focus from bacterial pathogenesis to genetic regulation in cyanobacteria. The goal of his research is to genetically engineer strains of cyanobacteria for industrial application including bioproduct development and bioremediation. Dr. Fisher's strong belief that research and teaching are complimentary influences his pedagogy. Examples from research are often used in his courses and students are encouraged to critique this new information and infer broader implications of scientific research.

Dr. Rachel Jeffery


Dr. Jeffrey
focuses her research on the neurobiology of memory.  She specifically is interested in the synapse, the connection between two neurons, and how it changes on a molecular and biochemical level.  Her Ph.D. research looked at how neurons signal from the synapse to the nucleus during long-term memory using primary cultured neurons. In her postdoctoral research she examined how proteins are modified at the synapse during memory using a complement of behavior paradigms, microscopy and biochemical tools in rodents  Currently, she is characterizing the novel role of a family of proteins during memory.  Her overarching goal is to include students in her research using microscopy, biochemistry, and behavior so that they appreciate both the material that they learn in class as well as the fascinating workings of the brain.


 Dr. Roberts:
     Dr. Roberts was recently awarded an NSF grant to aid in outfitting her lab with modern molecular biology equipment. She has also had a research manuscript with her postdoctoral PI, Steven Lindow, accepted for publication in the ISME journal. ISME journal is the premier journal in Dr. Roberts' field of microbial ecology with an impact factor of 8.951!  A link will be posted when the paper is available online. The paper is titled: "Loline alkaloid production by fungal endophytes of Fescue species select for particular epiphytic bacterial microflora", Elizabeth Roberts PhD and Steven Lindow PhD.  Finally, the Department congratulates Dr. Roberts for being awarded only one of two University-wide  SCSU "Junior Faculty Fellowships" for the Spring of 2014, in which she will be able to spend the majority of her time advancing her productive research agenda due to a reduced teaching schedule.  Dr. Roberts will be working on establishing a bioremediation system to remove Atrazine from soil using bacteria found on the leaves and roots of grasses.

Dr. Roberts in her lab


 Dr. Crawford:
     Dr. Crawford has recently gained media attention for her research on Christmas fern extracts that have demonstrated anti-cancer properties in pre-clinical testing in tissue culture. Click here for the full article from SCSU News.


 Dr. Edgington:
     Dr. Edgington was one of six faculty around the country named a SEA-PHAGES 'Genome Inspection & Finishing Team (GIFT) Scholar' for the next year by the HHMI SEA-PHAGES program. During the winter break he helped to assemble, check, finish, and post eight bacteriophage genomes using bioinformatics computer programs. This July, he will be a Faculty Facilitator to help teach a HHMI SEA-PHAGES In Situ workshop for the new cohort SEA-PHAGES faculty and TA's  at UMBC. Recently, he was also accepted into the second round of invitations to become an Oxford Nanopore Technologies "MinION Access Programme" participant.  The MinION™  device is a small USB flash drive-sized instrument that can sequence long reads of DNA molecules in real-time using biological nanopores. Amazingly for data acquisition, the device is simply plugged into a USB3 port of a laptop. "Currently, several hundred participants in the MinION Access programme (MAP) are working with the MinION system to explore how its features - including long read lengths, real-time digital data, portability and compressed workflows - might help to answer a range of biological questions."