Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Science Research

by Brittany G., Panther Blogger

As a student at Ferrum College, I get the opportunity to work with the professors and other workers here on campus over the summer doing many different things. I will be a senior in the fall, and this is my first time being offered a summer position to stay on campus in an apartment and work for the school doing research. I am currently working on researching the interaction between an entomopathogenic fungus called Metarhizium and specific insects such as fruit flies, spider mites, thrips, and white flies.  I am helping with all of this research in Garber Hall with Dr. Glen Stevens and several employees from Novozymes, located in Salem, VA.

Image taken with the scanning electron microscope.
Property of Ferrum College.
Currently, the research involves knowing basic handling of the scanning electron microscope, as well as the use of Metarhizium and the insects of interest.  Metarhizium is a fungus that kills insects which are known to thrive on cash crops such as vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and some flowers.  It targets soil-borne insect larvae as well as infecting the leaf sucking and feeding of the pests to either severely damage or kill them.  At this time, we have worked with five different formulations of Metarhizium and introduced it to fruit flies and spider mites by dipping them in the solutions or by spraying them at Novozymes with a Potter Spray Tower.

Image taken with the scanning electron microscope.
Property of Ferrum College.
After introducing specific pests to the fungus, we have been looking at the spores under the scanning electron microscope. I have learned several techniques for using the microscope from Dr. Michaela Gazdik and Dr. Bob Pohlad over the past few weeks, which have led to several intriguing pictures of these tiny insects with spores of fungus on them. From these pictures, we are focusing on trying to find the rate of germination and clumping of the fungus over a period of time, typically at 2, 24, and 72 hours. 

I have completed four weeks of research so far, and I have learned many new things from conducting my basic research to learning how to handle many different insects and interacting with a very professional company.  It has taught me to always ask questions that I may think of no matter how simple or small they may seem. Although this research has just begun, we still have several weeks left and much still to accomplish with our questions, research abilities, and with the knowledge and funding provided by Novozymes.

Image taken with the scanning electron microscope.
Property of Ferrum College.

If it was not for the hard work that I have put into my schooling thus far, I would not be able to be a part of something so wonderful for the curiosity and questioning within my scientific reasoning.  I am thrilled to be staying on campus with other students who are working on different projects.  I am also excited that I will be allowed the opportunity to possibly publish my name on several things, such as journals and posters that can be presented to the scientific community later this year!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bones and Bodies

by Blake S., Panther Blogger
As I had mentioned in my last blog post, I signed up to participate in the Ferrum College E-Term course titled "The Science of Crime," and WOW, what an experience!  This was by far one of the best college courses I have taken. Each and every day, we were able to implement various tactics and techniques that are used in crime scene television shows such as Forensic Files, CSI, and Bones.  From the analysis of fingerprints to testing unknown drug substances, we were able to reconstruct events that may have occurred at various crime scenes as well as identify suspects of the crime.
Analyzing cranial measurements
to determine an individual's
physical characteristics.

Of the numerous activities and labs that we participated in, the trip to the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Research Facility was the biggest highlight of the course. At this research facility, we learned how to identify the age, gender, stature, and ancestry of an individual based solely on skeletal remains. We also were privileged with the honor of being able to tour the "Body Farm," which is the area where forensic anthropology college graduate students perform experiments to study changes in human decomposition rates. It was an experience that I will not soon forget!

Our group outside the UT football stadium

The sun sphere in Knoxville, TN
While on this trip, I was also able to bond with and get to know my fellow classmates much better. We were able to spend a lot of time socializing while at restaurants, walking around the campus streets, shopping, and swimming at the hotel pool. I made quite a few new friends, which will make the upcoming year at Ferrum even more enjoyable. I can, without a doubt, say that my Ferrum College E-Term experience was amazing and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!