Monday, September 16, 2013

Microbiology REU Program

by Blake S., Panther Blogger

This summer, I was privileged with the honor of being a participant in the 2013 Microbiology REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program at Virginia Tech. This was an intensive ten-week research program in which the participants were placed into a laboratory of their interest and assigned a research project to complete.  The project that I performed dealt with the plant pathogenic bacteria Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii, which is responsible for causing blight and wilting in sweet corn.

Throughout this project, I analyzed specific genes in this bacteria's DNA to determine whether or not they play a significant role in the bacterial infection.  This was a very interesting experience, and I was exposed to numerous laboratory techniques that I have never even heard of before. The amount of knowledge that I gained from this program was unbelievable, and it has allowed me to develop a greater understanding of various concepts that I am now able to implement into my independent research here at Ferrum College.

During the course of the ten-week research program, we had to make sure that we took time to go out and have some fun too.  The other program participants and I took numerous trips just to get away from the campus and clear our minds from the research. Some of the things we did included hiking to the Cascade Falls of Pembroke, Virginia, going to see a fireworks show on July 4th, and spending a weekend in Washington, D.C.  By participating in these activities, we became very close with one another and formed a family.  When the ten weeks finally came to an end, it was difficult to say good-bye, but thanks to this program, we each now have networking connections with one another from all across the United States.

Our last dinner at Macado's in Blacksburg

The Ferrum faculty help connect their students with great opportunities like this. My professor and independent research mentor, Dr. Gazdik, found out when the applications for the Microbiology REU program were available and encouraged me to apply.  I'm so glad I did!  Being a participant in this program was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it helped me to develop both my career interests and research interests. I highly encourage those who are considering a career in research to apply to the Microbiology REU program, and if anyone has any sort of questions about the experience I had in the program, please feel free to contact me!

- Blake

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