News Archive

Summer research wraps up

17 students benefited from eight-week program

7/25/2003 11:54:34 AM


What do gene cloning, antioxidant levels, and geological specimens have in common? All were the subjects of summer research projects conducted in 2003 by R-MWC students in collaboration with their professors.

Jessamine Newer '05 and Wendy Satterwhite '06, for instance, built on previous research by Anne Taylor '02 and Assistant Professor of Biology Margaret Pope with the goal of cloning a regulatory gene from the bacterium Acinetobacter calcoaceticus. The work represents a step towards understanding the means by which this bacterium regulates DNA uptake, a process involved in what is known as horizontal gene transfer. This research may help scientists learn more about how bacteria "share" antibiotic resistance genes, and could aid in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in hospitals.

Monique Birmiel '04 worked with Associate Professor of Chemistry Ann Fabirkiewicz in measuring the types and levels of antioxidants found in a variety of foods such as green tea and cranberries. To date they have found vitamin C to be the strongest antioxidant measured, but, as Monique points out, other scientific research has shown that consuming too much vitamin C can render it an oxidant in the body.

R-MWC's impressive collection of geological specimens was a focus of research conducted by Naomi Hollifield '06 and Karin Warren, chair of the Environmental Studies Department. Naomi created a Web site showcasing specimens from the R-MWC collection, with the intent of making it accessible via the Internet to faculty members and students of R-MWC and other colleges. Naomi also helped to design a stream monitoring project for the introductory environmental studies class and created a treasure hunt field exercise using the Global Positioning System for an upper-level environmental studies class.

Jessamine, Wendy, Monique, and Naomi were four of 17 R-MWC students and 13 faculty members who participated in the College's summer Student/ Faculty Research Program. All the students worked with their professors over eight intensive weeks, enjoying an academic opportunity usually reserved for graduate school. Students presented their findings recently in a day-long forum to R-MWC faculty, staff, and interested members of the public.

Other summer research projects included those addressing Habitat home ownership in Lynchburg, Virginia; exhibition research and collections management at the Maier Museum of Art; a phonetic approach to the rules of English diction for singers; and historic theatre spaces and stage machinery.

"It is an invaluable experience for our students," says Program Coordinator and Professor of Chemistry Kurt Seidman. "It gives them an uninterrupted research experience and the flavor of graduate school, as well as the opportunity to present their findings to professional societies [as many R-MWC students have done]."

For a complete listing of all the work conducted in 2003, see Research Projects.

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations