Ms. Megan Treadwell, a second year student in the Environmental Sciences Institute (ESI) undergraduate progam has been awarded an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF). The ASM (URF) encourages students to pursue careers or advanced degrees in the microbiological sciences by providing an opportunity to participate in a research project at their institution and to gain experience in presenting the results of their research. The fellowship allows students to conduct research in the summer with an ASM member faculty mentor and present the results at the ASM General Meeting the following year. The award is for a minimum of 10 weeks of summer research beginning in June.
ASM will provide Megan with a $1000 stipend, up to $1000 for student travel to the 2012 ASM General Meeting and a two-year complimentary ASM membership. Funds for the program are provided by the American Society for Microbiology. In addition a $3000 stipend will be provided by the National Science Foundation HBCU-Research Initiation in Science and Engineering Program at FAMU.
The Undergraduate Research Fellows are required to: a) complete a minimum of ten weeks of full time effort on a research project; b) submit an abstract directly related to their research project to the ASM General Meeting; c) attend the ASM Presentation Institute prior to the ASM General Meeting; and, d) present an abstract and participate in other activities at the ASM General Meeting. The two day Presentation Institute is designed to develop the participants skills needed to make a successful presentation at a scientific meeting and give students an opportunity to interact in a professional manner with colleagues/mentors. In the award letter to Ms. Treadwell, it is stated that “ASM strives to afford this elite opportunity to the best and the brightest rising young scientists who will represent the society and themselves to their full potential. For this, we applaud your determination and motivation within the sciences and hope that you will enhance your research through the URF program”. Ms. Treadwell will serve her internship under the direction of Dr. Henry Neal Williams, the PI for the "HBCU-RISE Center for Microbial Ecology, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, and Water Quality and Dr. Despoina Lymperopoulou, a Postdoctoral Associate. They will be assisted by graduate and undergraduate students in the Williams laboratory in the ESI.
Ms. Treadwell’s research project will involve study of the impact of oil on Bacteriovorax, a bacterium that preys on certain other bacteria with the potential to control bacterial populations and nutrient cycling. They have a biphasic life cycle that includes a highly motile, free living form that “hunts” and attacks its prey with a deadly force, penetrates the cell wall and lodges in the periplasmic space. Here the Bacteriovorax consumes the contents of the prey cell promoting their own growth and multiplication and eventually lyses the prey releasing the predator progeny back into the environment to repeat the cycle. This unique and unusual life cycle makes Bacteriovorax one of the most exciting and engaging bacteria in the microbial world and an excellent model of study for attracting and holding the attention of students at all educational levels and particularly for introducing undergraduate students to research. As such this project will enhance the educational outreach component intended for this undergraduate fellowship.
The primary aims of the URF project are to isolate at least two phylotypes or Operational Taxonomic Units (OTU) based on similarities of 16S rRNA genes from the Gulf of Mexico and compare their viability over time using viable staining methods versus the traditional culture method of plaque-forming units. Megan will then measure the impact of oil on Bacteriovorax viability using both methods. The proposed project is an offshoot of a major NSF funded project to investigate the impact of oil from the Deep Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on bacterial predation involving Bacteriovorax and their respective prey bacteria