The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is proud to recognize Cassidy as a Student Marshal for the 2021 Spring Commencement! The daughter of Samantha and James Prince, Cassidy is a graduate of Millersburg High School in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. She is a Microbiology major and has earned her spot on the Dean’s List a remarkable seven times over her undergraduate career.
After graduation, she will be attending Cornell University where she will work to earn her Ph.D. in Microbiology. Her hope for the future is to pursue a career in academia or a government agency and study bacterial virulence.
Congratulations Cassidy on being named a Spring 2021 Student Marshal, and also for serving as a wonderful of example of why We Are Penn State!
Read more, below, about Cassidy's remarkable undergraduate career.
Commencement Faculty Escort:
What impact has/did Professor Amber Miller have on your undergraduate career?
"Professor Miller has been an incredible mentor for me. As an advisor for the BMB Department and the course coordinator for MICRB 202, she truly wants her students to succeed. I have been a teaching assistant for her course for the past two years, and she has provided me with countless incredible opportunities. Professor Miller created an outstanding environment for me to learn the fundamentals of teaching, and she is absolutely one of the reasons I can see myself as a future professor."
What is the most important lesson/memory/observation that you will take with you from your time at Penn State?
"Microbiology humbles you. You live on a timeline that single-celled organisms decide for you. Sometimes, they refuse to work with you, forcing you to repeat experiments over and over. Over the past four years, these tiny organisms have taught me time-management, organization, persistence, and patience. The diversity and complexity of the “simplest” living organisms inspires me every day to study microbiology."
Undergraduate Honors and Awards:
- Honorable Mention; NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (2020 - 2021)
- Semi-finalist for Switzerland; Fulbright U.S. Student Program (2020 - 2021)
- Daniel R. Tershak Memorial Scholarship (2020 - 2021)
- Third place; Science Coalition “Fund It Forward” Student Video Challenge (2020)
- Penn State Student Engagement Network Grant (2019, 2020) – awarded twice
In what laboratory did you conduct your research?
What was your research topic, and can you describe for our audience your research activities?
For my honors thesis research, I focused on identifying genetic markers for cytotoxicity in clade VI of the Bacillus cereus group. Within this group exist foodborne pathogens and strains used as bioinsecticides. Unfortunately, recent outbreaks have shown that some strains used as bioinsecticides may present a risk to consumers. Genetic markers could be used to screen isolates found in food for cytotoxicity in a more precise manner than is used currently.
To identify genetic markers, I collected cytotoxicity data for 66 B. cereus group clade IV isolates by subjecting CaCo-2 cells to isolate supernatants. I then analyzed whole-genome sequences, looking for SNPs in the upstream region of enterotoxins (hbl, nhe, and cytk2) that may be associated with cytotoxicity. Currently, 10 SNPs have been significantly correlated with cytotoxicity. These SNPs warrant further investigation as potential genetic markers of B. cereus cytotoxicity. I will be expanding upon my research this summer.
I have also performed research in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia to improve dairy safety by detecting pathogens throughout the Ethiopian dairy supply chain. I helped optimize PCR and media preparation techniques, and I taught the methods in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in August 2019. Currently, I am designing a manual/eBook to be used in future teachings about foodborne pathogen detection.