NEWS

Summer studies revealed

SURE students present original research at the Mount
October 11, 2017
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -

Mount Saint Mary College student Deja Carter of Brooklyn, N.Y. presented her SURE project, “Bird and Tree Diversity in a Maturing Deciduous Forest,” during the recent poster symposium. Carter worked with associate biology professor Douglas Robinson (right) on the research

Mount Saint Mary College student Deja Carter of Brooklyn, N.Y. presented her SURE project, “Bird and Tree Diversity in a Maturing Deciduous Forest,” during the recent poster symposium. Carter worked with associate biology professor Douglas Robinson (right) on the research.

 

From examining American healthcare to measuring the chemical effects of mouthwash on human teeth, Mount Saint Mary College students recently showcased their summer research.

Nearly two dozen students presented their Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) findings in poster format. 

Through the SURE program, coordinated by assistant biology professor Evan Merkhofer, Mount professors acted as mentors to the students in a plethora of subjects over the summer interim. 

As in previous years, the program is a hotbed for research in the natural sciences. Heather Polgrean of Lagrangeville, N.Y. presented “Annotation of the DNA Genome Bacteriophage Adlitam.” She was mentored by Merkhofer and Suparna Bhalla, associate professor of biology.

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria, not humans. So why was Polgrean focused on researching them? The answer is simple, she said: By mapping their genes, one might be building the framework for other discoveries down the line. For example, scientists might be able to discover a cure to bacteria-based illnesses by studying the viruses that infect them.

“You never know what the full implication of these discoveries could be,” Merkhofer said. “They could change the world one day.”

In the case of adlitam, said Polgrean, “If we can modify a few genes, it might be possible to train this little virus to only attack tuberculosis, and then you’d be able to circumvent any problems with bacterial resistance.”

The bacteriophage, she added, was found in a soil sample on campus.

Chemistry professor Lynn Maelia and Annie Ruvolo of Carmel, N.Y., a biology major on the pre-dental track, studied the effect of mouthwash on the chemical composition of human teeth. The pair measured calcium and phosphorus composition of human teeth via X-ray fluorescence before and after exposure to mouthwash. Nearly 50 human teeth of varying levels of wear and decay were subjected to 24 hours of vigorous swishing with half a dozen name brand mouth rinses, mimicking the effect of two years of exposure. 

Though Ruvolo pointed out that she would like to run more tests, preliminary data shows no ill effects on the teeth: “No change in calcium or phosphorus was observed in the control or in any of the mouthwashes tested,” she noted. 

Other projects included “Bird and Tree Diversity in a Maturing Deciduous Forest,” by associate biology professor Douglas Robinson and Deja Carter of Brooklyn, N.Y.; “The Effect of Inhibition of Gene Expression in Broccoli Seedlings on Germination and Metabolism” by biology professor Carl Hoegler and Andrew Suleiman of Highland, N.Y.; and “The Dodd-Frank Act: Through a Banker’s Perspective” by associate professor of economics A. Reza Hossain, assistant finance professor Ying Xiao, and Steven Tobey of Stratford, Conn.

After the students’ poster presentations, SURE keynote speaker Margie Turrin, a senior staff associate and education coordinator at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, gave a talk titled “Research and Collaboration Can Lead to Unexpected Places.” 

“When I started working on the Hudson River, I never envisioned that it would translate to camping on the edge of an ice sheet in Greenland using a small boat to gather sediment cores from recently exposed glacial lakes,” explained Turrin, 

At Columbia University, Turrin develops and delivers science education for informal and formal educators, and conducts research linking science and education.