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Undergraduate Programs
First Year Research Initiative in BMB

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offers two exciting first year research experiences.

The BMB Department has contributed to the college’s First-year Research Initiative (FRI) for undergraduates by designing and teaching Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) to incoming first-year students.  Through this program, students learn science by doing science that contributes to the scientific body of knowledge. Students that participate in a FRI experience have the opportunity to connect with research early on and be inspired to greater achievement in college. 

BMB currently has FRI opportunities centered around two different themes.  One is focused on phage discovery, and the other on antibiotic discovery.  The phage discovery CURE was developed and taught by Gregory Broussard, Assistant Teaching Professor, with the help of Meredith Defelice, Associate Head of Undergraduate Affairs. Students that participate in the CURE enroll in BMB205S, which provides students with the research experience as well as a first-year seminar experience.  BMB 205S is offered the summer before a student’s first fall semester, enabling students to learn and experience the scientific process before sitting in their first college-level science lecture. In just six weeks during the summer, students isolate a unique virus, extract its genomic DNA (which is sequenced) and take an electron micrograph (picture) of their virus.  Students can then continue in the Fall by enrolling in BMB 210, where they learn bioinformatics by annotating a viral genome. The annotated genome is then submitted to the scientific database GenBank.  Currently we have five phage genomes on GenBank and students are annotating another 15 this Fall.  Within a year, we expect to have 20 genomes in GenBank from viruses isolated by and annotated by undergraduate researchers. Students that participate in BMB 210 also write a research proposal during the Fall semester and can continue in the Spring to carry out their proposed research while enrolled in BMB 294.  

Shawn Xiong, Assistant Teaching Professor is now implementing the department’s second CURE centered on antibiotic discovery in collaboration with Ken Keiler, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and John Alumasa, Assistant Research Professor.  Students that participate in this CURE enroll in two courses: BMB 205 and a special section of CHEM 111.  The CURE has been designed to meet the learning objectives of CHEM 111 so students are able to make progress towards their degree requirements while participating in an early research experience. BMB205/CHEM111 undergraduate researchers start their journey by sampling soil across Pennsylvania in the field. While in the lab, students work on purifying and characterizing potential antibiotic compounds from the soil. Through this research journey, students will develop a firm base for applying Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Microbiology to real world problems. At the end of the research project, students are expected to present their work in local and regional scientific meetings and prepare a manuscript for submitting to the American Journal of Undergraduate Research. Students who are interested in continuing their research project are encouraged to enroll in BMB294 in the spring and summer semesters.

Later this fall, Broussard and Xiong are teaming together to bring students to the Allegheny Branch American Society for Microbiology meeting to present posters on their work.  

Students working through an experiment they constructed
Antibiotic Discovery

While in the lab, students work on purifying and characterizing potential antibiotic compounds from the soil.
 

Student, Cory Lestochi, harvests oysters from their shell in order to isolate bacteria infected with phage.
Phage Discovery

The summer course allows students to learn and experience the scientific process before sitting in their first college-level science lecture.