Bacterial – Ant interaction: Presidential Fellow Minahil Sami’s Summer Research

Hi! My name is Minahil Sami and I have been awarded a University of Scranton President’s Fellowship for Summer Research (PFSR). This summer I am working in Dr. Seid’s lab on my project titled, “Immunological Priming for Bacterial Strain Specific Effects in Ants.”


Immunological priming is a new and expanding area of research that focuses on the phenomenon of a heightened immune response within invertebrate systems after an initial encounter or ‘priming’ with a pathogen. Invertebrate immune systems have traditionally been labeled as simplistic due to the lack of immunoglobins. The concept of immune priming in invertebrates is analogous to vaccination in vertebrate systems. Previous research has successfully used ants as a model for immune priming, but there is no literature on the specificity of the immune response in differentiating between a secondary exposure to an antigen different to that used to initially vaccinate.


This summer, I aim to observe the strain-specific effects of immune priming on individuals by manipulating the species of bacteria during the secondary immune challenge stage in the larvae of Camponotus floridanus. Ants encounter bacterial pathogens daily; two of the most prevalent species include the Gram-negative bacteria Serratia marcescens and Escherichia coli. I have isolated said strains from soil samples and inoculated them to specified concentrations. Over the course of the next few weeks, immunologically primed ant larvae will be cross-exposed to the two different species of Gram-negative bacteria and then challenged with a lethal dose of a known pathogen. The results of this experiment bring may bring us one step closer in uncovering the immunological mechanisms of insect species.

The University of Scranton’s President’s Fellowship for Summer Research is one of many avenues of research presented to undergraduates and I am thankful for the opportunity to further my skills in the lab. The fellowship has provided incentive, helped to defray my cost of living, and has helped me to purchase materials needed for my project. I hope more students to come can benefit from the outstanding faculty and research labs at the University as I have. I look forward to presenting my results to faculty and peers at the next annual Celebration of Student Scholars event. Finally, I thank both Dr. Seid and Dr. Crable for overseeing my project and for their one-on-one mentorship.



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Scranton students present their research at Microbe 2019

Research students in Dr. Bryan Crable’s Microbial Physiology Group at the University of Scranton presented their research this summer at the American Society of Microbiology’s Microbe 2019 in San Francisco, CA.  Their study, “The Effects of Polystyrene Microparticles on Growth of Model Enteric Bacteria” was well-received.  The students met investigators from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of California, Berkeley.  

The American Society of Microbiology represents over 20,000 microbiologists from around the globe and is the world’s largest life sciences professional society.  Highlights of ASM Microbe 2019 included an opening lecture from 2018 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Dr. Frances Arnold (Caltech) and a symposium lecture by Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Dr. Jo Handelsman.  Dr. Arnold’s talk focused on her research evolving enzymes to do novel chemical reactions.  Dr. Handelsman’s talk focused on her experience going from an undergraduate student at Cornell University who was told “girls don’t do science” to Full Professor at Yale and a three year appointment as President Barack Obama’s Associate Director for Science.

Rising senior Biology major Toby Ippolito had this to say about the meeting:

“The opportunity to attend ASM Microbe 2019 allowed me to take an important step in my professional career.  Presenting our study to those interested in our research required a thorough understanding of the project.  I expanded my personal knowledge of Dr. Crable’s research and had the opportunity to share our work with the scientific community.  ASM Microbe 2019 provided an opportunity to interact and network with leading researchers from around the globe.”

Students in attendance from left to right:  Rising senior Zachary Zimbardo, rising senior Toby Ippolito, rising junior and lead author Molly Elkins, and rising senior Joe Vellardito.

The study presented was:

Elkins, MK, T Ippolito, J Vellardito, Z Zimbardo, K Cebular, J Jeffers, J Layou, W Oxley, M Strein, J Simon, G Ragusa, and BR Crable.  2019.  The effects of polystyrene microparticles on growth of model enteric bacteria.  ASM Microbe, San Francisco, CA

The students’ poster is on display outside Loyola Science Center 373.

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Elizabeth Kenny is conducting Pollination Ecology projects in the White Mountains of California

Hi, I’m Elizabeth, a rising senior Biology major. This summer I am living and working in Southern California!

I am working as an intern for Dr. Nicole Rafferty with her laboratory group at the University of California, Riverside, working on pollination ecology projects in the White Mountains. I am assisting a PhD student on his project as well as designing and working on an independent project of my own. In the short time I have been here, I have already learned so much.

I would have never applied or pursued this opportunity if it weren’t for my community at Scranton. My laboratory professor helped me to find this opportunity, my biology professors encouraged me to apply and Career Services helped support me financially.

The University of Scranton has continually worked to enhance my college experience and challenged me to be a lifelong learner, both inside and outside of the classroom. I came to Scranton with no aspirations or idea that I would love scientific research so much. At Scranton, I was able to explore my newfound passion and now I am able to work on plant/ pollinator alpine research in California.

Thanks to Scranton, I have been able to excel as a student, a research scientist and a person.

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Sophia Monroe, rising senior Biology major, joins Plant Genome Research Program through an REU at Cornell

Hi all, this is Sophia Monroe, rising senior Biology major!

This summer, I am taking part in the Boyce Thompson Institute’s Plant Genome Research Program at Cornell University, through a paid REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) funded by the National Science Foundation. I’ll be here in the Plant Science department from June 3rd to August 9th.

Working in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Frank, my project focuses on detecting leaf vein patterns through fluorescent microscopy and machine learning. Our goal is to create a software-based mechanism for autonomously identifying fluorescent leaf veins. This will be utilized in plant grafting, by providing more information on the success of a graft and by more efficiently identifying issues in grafted plants.

My Scranton experience has been a great setup for this fellowship. It enabled me to grow as a student and scientist, develop my scientific interests, and refine my career goals, which helped prepare me to land and succeed in the REU program.

This REU has been a tremendous way to experience what research is really like. It’s also helping me to prepare for graduate school. In addition to working in the laboratory, I’ve taken part in workshops and seminars for science-communication and bioinformatics. I’ve improved and broadened my laboratory techniques, honed my communication skills, made new professional connections in biology, and much more.

I’m very thankful for this opportunity and I’m excited to continue this work for the rest of the summer!

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Jithin George dives into a Summer Scholar Experience at The University of Rochester

Hey everyone! I’m Jithin V. George, a rising junior Neuroscience major at the U!

This summer, I’m attending the 10 week, MSTP Summer Scholars Program at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. (This is due, in large part, to Dr. Orr for his letter of recommendation, his mentorship, and his willingness to put up with my incessant questions; to Dr. Waldeck for his support; and to Dr. Catino for making sure I didn’t give up hope!)

Through the program, I’m conducting research in the Cognitive Neurophysiology laboratory led by Dr. Ed Freedman and Dr. John Foxe. I’m working with David Richardson to investigate cognitive-motor interference in elderly populations and developing a cognitive-motor task for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

I also shadow Dr. Matt Bellizzi in the Multiple Sclerosis clinic of Strong Memorial Hospital’s Neurology department. I also attend weekly professional development seminars, participate in various optional educational seminars, take preparatory MCAT classes, work with underprivileged high school students through the Upward Bound program, and attend MSTP social events.

The program culminates with a poster presentation session, where each MSTP Scholar presents the results of their research. Wish me luck!!

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Physiology major Nicolette George lands a summer Physical Therapy Internship

Even though I am only a rising sophomore, I find it important to capitalize on any opportunity that will allow me to become more familiar with my area of study.

Considering that I am a Physiology major in the Physical Therapy Program, it became clear to me that a summer internship in PT would be beneficial in preparing me for my future. Through a mutual friend of a local physical therapist, I was able to obtain an unpaid summer internship at Carroll Physical Therapy, an outpatient center not too far from my home in Denville, New Jersey. I’m working every Tuesday and Thursday of the summer, from 1pm to 4pm. The owner of the facility is actually a Scranton Alumnus, Daniel Carroll, who graduated in 2009 with his doctorate from the same physical therapy program that I am currently pursuing.

My first day was on June 4th. Not having much experience in this particular field, I walked in as a blank slate, eager to learn what my future career entailed. Throughout the day, I observe the sessions that take place between the clients and the physical therapists, as clients work to regain their mobility. I learn to apply the anatomical vocabulary I acquired in school to real-life situations.

Furthermore,  I’m coming to understand how important the relationship between the doctor and the client truly is. From the start of each session, the client’s injuries and comfort dictate the entire rehabilitation process, making each interaction unique. Getting to know the patient is the key to discovering an effective treatment, and it also leads to many notable and sometimes hilarious quirks that come about in conversation.

I discovered how much the field of physical therapy aligns with my values and interests. At first, I was nervous to work at the facility, fearing that I would have to start back at square one with my whole career choice if I did not jive well with the practice. To my amazement, I flourished in the physical therapy environment. My passion grows with each session, as I learn not only what can be done to physically aid the client, but also how I can help them on an emotional and psychological level. This discovery of my social aptitude, as well as my interest in the field, is a monumental success in the grand scheme of my future as a physical therapist.

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Jacob Myers (BCMB) joins University of Nebraska’s Summer REU Program

Hi all, I’m Jacob Myers, a rising junior BCMB major at Scranton. 

This Summer I am at an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program for redox biology at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. This ten week experience comes with a stipend, room and board, as well as my travel expenses paid for by the NSF. (Shout out to Drs. Hardisky and Royer for writing letters of recommendation for me, and to Dr. Foley for the research experience that helped me land the REU!)

While I’m here I will be working on better understanding the roll of Sestrin-2 in regulating cell homeostasis by initiating the degradation of damaged mitochondria.  Wish me luck; I hope to be able to tell you more about it by the end of the summer.

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Spring 2019 UofS Career Expo, Thurs., April 4, 11AM-2PM; Byron Center

Biological Sciences Students:

The Center for Career Development is hosting the Career Expo on Thursday, April 4 from 11:00am-2:00pm in the Byron.  There will be 120 employers/grad schools/long-term service organizations there.  We encourage all years and all majors to attend.  Attached below is a list of employers specific to CAS majors.



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Summer Paid Job Opportunity addressing Regional Invasive Species Outbreak

The US Department of Agriculture has announced the following opportunity for a paid summer job in Northeastern Pennsylvania to help them address an ongoing outbreak of the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species threatening grapes, fruit orchards and hardwood trees.
More information on this infestation can be gotten through the following report from National Public Radio:

If you are interested in applying for this job, please download the PDF attached below and send in the application to the address provided. (Note that the document below had been edited to provide a correct email address to which you should send your application.)


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Spring 2019 Seminar Series

This semester’s seminar series is underway!

The first speaker, Tim Sweeney, talked about his experience working in medical technology as the Northeast Head of Health Economics and Reimbursement at LivaNova PLC.

The remaining speakers of the semester are ecologists whose integrative work ranges from physiology to modeling and evolution.

On Thursday, March 28th, at 11:30 AM in LSC 334, Colin Kremer (Yale University) will discuss his work modeling ecological dynamics in his seminar, “From beakers to ocean: microbial ecology in a changing world.”

Next, our own Chris Howey will talk on Tuesday, April 16th, at 11:30 AM in LSC 334 about his rattlesnake research, “The history and ecology of rattlesnakes in an ever-changing world.”

On Thursday, April 25th, at 11:30 AM in LSC 334, our final speaker, Beth Norman (Lacawac Biological Station), will give us a taste of aquatic ecology with “Nutrient cycling in Appalachian streams: following nitrogen from microbes through food webs.”

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