10 posts categorized "Microbiology"

08/24/2016

New microbiology course offers look into bread, chocolate and coffee

Coffee and Bread Picture 

For me, the words “bread, chocolate, and coffee” conjure daydreams of a warm summer day, sipping espresso and indulging a Pain au Chocolat at a French bistro by the sea.  But would you be surprised to hear that that same daydream is only possible because of microbes? Yes, those savory and sweet concoctions only make it to our cups and plates after spending some quality time with bacteria and yeasts.

This semester, students in USciences Applied Microbiology course will learn about the process of fermentation in producing bread, chocolate and coffee. Fermentation was, quite likely, “discovered” by accident in ancient times when a basket of grapes, left out for too long, was found to be not spoiled – but rather delightful.  This same principle was then applied to many other types of food sources, including wet flour, cacao pods, and coffee cherries.  While these fermentations have been taking place for centuries, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the cause of fermentation was actually identified as microscopic organisms – what were eventually identified as bacteria and yeast. The boon of cellular biology in the 20th century then allowed scientists to understand the chemical reactions that occur during fermentation – namely the breakdown of sugars into acids, alcohols, and gases.

In modern times, the process of mixing flour and water to make leavened baked goods has been largely industrialized and well-studied.  Students in Applied Microbiology will conduct their own sourdough fermentations and test how farming styles – conventional vs. organic flours – impact the microbial ecology and physiology. Students will then manipulate their fermentations and learn how those decisions impact the final bread product from John McGrath, executive baker at Philly’s hometown café giant La Colombe.

Around mid-October, unbeknownst to many of us in North America, the late cocoa harvest will begin in the tropics.  The cocoa used in chocolate is derived from the fruit of cacao trees, which harbor the cocoa beans, or seeds.  At the beginning of the harvest season, students in the course will then receive cacao fruit and will proceed to ferment the beans, as cocoa farmers around the world do – they will leave it in a box for seven days. During this time, students will examine the microbial ecology and physiology and then correlate it to the presence of polyphenols – those compounds that have recently been touted as “making chocolate good for you.” Students will then be treated to a tasting panel at Hershey’s Technology Center, led by Master Chocolatier Jim St. John and hear the lasted in chocolate research and development.

Finally, as the colder weather sets in, students will begin their final fermentation of coffee cherries.  When coffee cherries are harvested, the bean can undergo low, medium, or high fermentation, which will affect the final complexity and depth of the coffee itself.  Because the beans are often fermented by the natural microflora found on the cherry, students will introduce specific “starter cultures” to identify what bacterial and/or yeast strains result in the most efficient fermentation.  To experience how differing methods and styles of coffee fermentation affect the drink characteristics, students will participate in a ‘cupping’ – an official coffee tasting – at a local Philly café.  

Through the semester, students will also be reading Simran Sethi’s cultural exploration “Bread, Wine, & Chocolate,” which takes a macroscopic view of many fermented foods (without going into too much microbiology), and even provides tasting guides – it’s a really fun read for anybody.  By reading the book, students will not only be able to manipulate the microbes of their fermentations, but place into greater context how optimizing food fermentation interconnects with issues of biodiversity, sustainability, fair trade and their own experiences with food. 

Students will be maintaining a blog of their research, which you can follow at www.fermentationstations.wordpress.com

 

Follow Dr. Stacey Gorski on Twitter @Dr_Gorski

02/13/2015

First Look: Beginning SEA-PHAGES at USciences

CrossHello USciences Community,

My name is Trevor Cross and I will be helping to pilot the HHMI SEA-PHAGES program in the Biological Sciences curriculum. What is HHMI SEA-PHAGES you might ask? HHMI stands for Howard Hughes Medical Institute and SEA-PHAGES means Science Education Alliance- Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science. It's a mouthful, but this is a collaboration between HHMI and many other colleges, universities, and even high schools across the nation as well as some locations overseas, a collaboration that USciences is now happily a part of!

What does this mean for USciences? It means that the Biology Department will be piloting a discovery-based undergraduate research course where a group of first year biology majors will have the opportunity to isolate and characterize their own unique bacteriophage from their own soil sample. By participating in this class, students will get to experience what it's like to do research by having their own project, contribute to a growing public database of phages and genomic information, and have a scientific discovery to call their own! As someone who has been a student in this class and a TA/peer mentor for this course, I can say from experience how AWESOME it is and how excited I am to be a part of this initiative as it unfolds here at USciences!

We will be starting our pilot section of this course in the Fall so as the students work hard to find their phages and characterize them, I intend to share the class' story here as it unfolds.

See the links below to the HHMI SEA webpage, the USciences press release, and phages database to see where students' phages are proudly displayed and accessible to other researchers, viewing one of my own sequenced phages as an example of what students will have at the end of the course.

I can't wait to begin this journey at USciences!

Trevor Cross
Laboratory Technician

10/28/2014

USciences Prez, Students and Faculty Attended Life Sciences Future in Philly

PABioLSF14_-138University of the Sciences President Dr. Helen-Giles Gee, as well as students and faculty from USciences, joined hundreds of life sciences leaders and innovators during the Life Sciences Future Conference on Oct. 13-14 in Philadelphia.

Life Sciences Future was a two-day event designed by Pennsylvania Bio to reflect the rapidly-evolving landscape in healthcare - which includes biopharma, medical device and diagnostics, healthcare IT, contract research organizations, medical research institutions, and the investment community.

The first day of the event kicked off with Life Sciences Future Symposium: Partnerships in Science, which was designed for an exclusive audience of academic researchers, such as USciences students and faculty, to explore best practices for engaging business development representatives at large companies as well as the next steps in developing their technologies. The second day of the conference was jam-packed with speakers, topics and features all related to advancing science and healthcare industries.

Dr. Giles-Gee and students had the opportunity to meet and speak with Michael Sofia, inventor of Sofosbuvir – known by the brand name Sovaldi, a hepatitis C therapy drug approved by the FDA last December.

“The sessions were outstanding and much appreciated by the faculty and students who attended," Dr. Giles-Gee.

10/27/2014

USciences Well-Represented at Annual UMBC Research Symposium

Bio research University of the Sciences was well-represented at the 17th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences held at University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Saturday, Oct. 25.

This annual event – sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health – showcased dozens of mentor-approved contributions from undergraduate students who investigated various aspects of chemistry, biology and biochemistry. 

Ashley Stewart MB'15 and Reecha Pandya BISci'15 joined Drs. Peter B. Berget and Matthew Farber, both professors in the Department of Biological Sciences, as they presented their research.

Stewart’s research, “Blood Sensors: Development of Biosensors for the Measurement of Factor Xa and Thrombin Concentrations in Blood,” aimed to advance diagnostic testing methods by creating a protein-based “detector” that can directly assess clotting measures in a patient’s blood. Dr. Berget, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, served as her research advisor for the project.

Pandya’s research, “Effect of Fermentation Parameters on Protease Activity in Beer” was intended to optimize beer fermentation conditions that minimize potential protease release, ultimately benefiting quality control for home brewers and commercial breweries. She conducted her research under the guidance of Drs. Farber and Berget. Dr. Farber is currently a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Berget specializing in cell biology and protein purification. 

06/18/2014

Nearly 100 Philly Middle Schoolers Explore STEM Careers at USciences

IMG_1861As part of an ongoing commitment to Philadelphia schools and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, University of the Sciences hosted its first Career Day for Middle School Students on May 9.

Held in conjunction with state Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), University City Science Center, and three local middle schools, a half-day program focusing on STEM careers was developed by USciences faculty and staff for nearly 100 local students from Samuel B. Huey School, Jubilee School, and The City School.

University president Helen Giles-Gee, PhD, kicked off the day with welcome remarks, which included her hope and expectation that one day the young students would attend USciences. The fifth-graders were also given a tour of USciences’ campus by student ambassadors, and participated in a science expo held by students and faculty from chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, pharmacy, and pharmacology/toxicology programs.

IMG_1829They had the opportunity to participate in hands-on demonstrations and experiments highlighting the STEM academic disciplines, and then experienced lunch in a college dining hall. The day wrapped up with a presentation on career interest and exploration.

Click here to see all photos from the day.

Participating staff and faculty, included: Kimberly Bryant, director of career services; Kevin Wolbach, interim associate dean of Misher College of Arts and Sciences; Catherine Bentzley, PhD, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Grace Farber, PhD, assistant professor of biology; Carl Walasek, statistics instructor; Scott Greene, director of the Student Excellence and Professional Preparation programs; Mary Kate McGinty, director of government and community affairs; and Danielle Stollak, program manager of University City Science Center's STEAM Initiatives.

06/11/2014

USciences Launches Free Open, Online Courses on iTunes U

ItunesuPeople of all ages and backgrounds across the world are one click away from experiencing a free education from University of the Sciences. That’s because the University recently launched two open, online courses on iTunes to allow individuals to explore the interdisciplinary teaching styles of some of its professors.

“These open, online courses are a tremendous opportunity for universities, like USciences, to draw attention to our high-quality curriculum and outstanding faculty,” said Mark H. Nestor, PhD, associate provost and chief information officer of academic affairs. “This type of forum also allows us to project our brand globally."

Available through a free app in the iTunes Store, iTunes U provides access to thousands of courses prepared by instructors worldwide, including the USciences courses which cover the topics of AIDS and the history of time. These courses are openly available to the public and are made up of several modules, or “lectures.” While enrollment for these online courses is not required, an iTunes account is needed to access them.

Muprhy
Dr. Murphy

Although the concept of the AIDS course was initially developed by Kevin Murphy, PhD, chair of the Department of Humanities; it was further enhanced by including a total of 33 lectures from an interdisciplinary team of USciences faculty. Michelle Ramirez, PhD, MPH, associate professor of anthropology; Samuel Talcott, PhD, assistant professor of philosophy; and Margaret A. Reinhart, director of the Medical Laboratory Science Program, each contributed lectures to this well-rounded course.

“By providing lectures from the medical science, anthropologic, and philosophic perspectives, participants of this course will be able to gather four different and pertinent angles to this international problem,” said Dr. Murphy. “Our course covers topics ranging from the cellular and medical dimensions of AIDS to the gender and ethical elements of the disease.”

Robson
Dr. Robson

Similarly, the second USciences course offered on iTunes aims to introduce students to the complex, mysterious, and often elusive nature of time. Spearheaded by history professor, Roy Robson, PhD, students who participate in this course will have the opportunity explore time through a multidisciplinary, historical, and multicultural approach covering diverse fields such as physics, medicine, psychology, sociology, religion, art, and philosophy.

“Although this free service provides self-paced courses without assessment or acknowledgement of completion, it has the potential to encourage students to continue their educations at USciences,” said Dr. Murphy.

Andrew Esposito, instructional designer in the Office of Academic Technology at USciences, developed and produced these courses on iTunes. To access USciences’ free courses via iTunes U, visit http://bit.ly/1kzQvTz.

Click here to listen to KYW Newsradio's June 18 segment regarding USciences' open, online courses.

04/11/2014

VIDEO: 6abc Highlights Students, Faculty at USciences Research Day

 
 
6abc showcased the diversity and growth of research pursuits at University of the Sciences during its 12th Annual Research Day and 27th Annual John C. Krantz, Jr., Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, April 10. Research Day recognizes and highlights the research efforts of faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students, to encourage and promote communication and collaboration among researchers.
 
USciences distinguishes itself by offering undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research early in their academic careers. The diverse research activity that was on display spanned several aspects of the University’s scholarly pursuits, including:
  • Determining occupational therapists’ role in working with pediatric cancer patients
  • Discovering the personality traits that cause adolescents to kill
  • Using yoga to improve quality of life for patients with anorexia nervosa
  • Identifying predictors of successful post-secondary transitions for autistic students

02/24/2014

Alumni Seminar Series features Dr. Richard C. Remsing C’08

RemsingThe Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry brings prominent graduates back to their alma mater through its Alumni Seminar Series. On Feb. 17, alumnus Richard C. Remsing C'08, PhD, joined USciences for an accepted students “Chemistry Day.” He engaged prospective scholars with an active panel discussion and lectured for current students.

 “I hope to join a university faculty, begin teaching, and continue research,” Dr. Remsing said on his future goals. “I want to provoke passion in students about the incredible field of chemistry.”

After graduating from USciences in 2008, Dr. Remsing earned a doctorate degree in chemical physics from the University of Maryland. He currently holds a postdoctoral research position at University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering.

As an undergraduate commuter, Dr. Remsing had to fill a significant amount of time between classes with on-campus activities. Research fit this schedule nicely, and he published eight papers before completing his bachelors degree.

The team Dr. Remsing worked with during those years was the first to demonstrate an ecological method of extracting cellulose from wood – in other words: eco-friendly paper pulp. Dr. Remsing then moved from studying ionic liquids and other aspects of physical chemistry to the field of theoretical physics.

Today, he is a theorist: using computer systems to explain the principles governing molecular interactions and building models describing these findings.

“Statistical Mechanics was my favorite class at USciences,” said Dr. Remsing. “It was a preview of what I do now with computer simulation, and introduced me to a different type of research that I continue to use.”

02/06/2014

The Biggest Mistakes Transfer Students Make

Viggiani_aimeeChoosing which college to attend is a huge decision for students. Whether they’ve earned their associate’s degrees from community colleges and ready to move on to earn their bachelor’s degrees, or currently enrolled in four-year schools that aren’t the right fit, one-third of all students transfer at least once before earning a degree.

Aimee Viggiani, associate director of transfer admissions, was recently featured in two articles which provide helpful tips for transfer students. She said, "All too often, students wait until too late in their college careers to ask why a certain class didn't transfer. Even if you don't need the credit right away, you may need it in the future. So ask transfer credit questions as soon as possible."

04/03/2009

Research Day Showcases Faculty and Student Research

090402_research_day_300 From metabolic engineering to computational chemistry and from structural prediction of proteins to rational design of new therapeutics, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia showcased the diversity and growth of research pursuits on campus during its 7th Annual Research Day starting on Thursday, April 2, 2009. Posters representing approximately 120 topics were on display.

Research Day recognizes undergraduate and graduate student research efforts, and highlights aspects of faculty scholarly activity to encourage and promote communication and collaboration among investigators. The University is distinctive in that most undergraduate students conduct research with faculty early in their academic careers.

The diverse research activity on display spans several aspects of the University’s scholarly pursuits, including:

• Biological Sciences: Dr. Jennifer Anthony’s research involving the metabolic engineering of E. coli for the production of vitamin A.
  • Chemistry: Dr. Randy Zauhar’s use of computer-aided drug design to identify new antimicrobial lead compounds.
• Pharmaceutical Sciences: Dr. Bin Chen’s evaluation of the effects of vascular-targeting photodynamic therapy on prostate cancer metastasis.
• Physical Therapy: Dr. Therese Johnston’s usage of treadmill training for children with cerebral palsy.
• Social Sciences: Psychology major Mark Paullin’s (Philadelphia, Pa.) study of mild cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease.
• Health Policy: Master in public health major Sekinat Kekere-Ekun’s (Deptford, N.J.) work on the descriptive epidemiology of viral hepatitis in methadone maintenance clients.
• Pharmacy Practice: Doctor of pharmacy students Neha Patel (Fairless Hills, Pa.), Puja Patel (Hillsborough, N.J.), and Isha Shah’s (Bensalem, Pa.) analysis of the usage of ondansetron in non-chemotherapy patients at a community teaching hospital.

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