17 posts categorized "Biology"


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


New course offering to immerse students in ‘Modern Vaccinology’

Vaccinology_Twitter_main_03Happy New Year! This spring, I am excited to launch a new course in the Department of Biological Sciences that will immerse USciences students in modern vaccinology. Students enrolled in BS415: Modern Issues in Vaccinology will have the opportunity to actively engage the public and their colleagues in scientific discussions regarding vaccines and immunization programs.

Before I get into details about this new course, I want to take a moment to briefly introduce myself. My name is Stacey Gorski, PhD, and I am an assistant professor of biological sciences here at USciences. I am also an alumna of this University and earned my BS in biology in 2008, before earning my doctorate at University of Virginia in microbiology, immunology & cancer biology. I then worked in vaccine design and manufacturing in Adelaide, Australia before coming full circle, and finding myself back home at USciences.

Using my experience and expertise in immunology and vaccine design, I designed this course to center around a student-driven social media campaign via Twitter and Buzzfeed, as well as original directed research regarding vaccination attitudes within the healthcare profession. Vaccination is considered one of the top three achievements of humankind in regards to improving human health and I have found that students in my introductory ‘Principles of Immunology’ course find the topic both fascinating and thought-provoking. Indeed, the idea that a person can be exposed to modified microbes, without getting sick, and then potentially acquire lifelong immunity is one of the most amazing and fulfilling aspects of vaccinology.

The course will allow students to explore the data behind the current recommended vaccine schedule, discuss the myriad of government programs that are designed to promote and maintain vaccine safety, and explore their own, as well as their colleague’s attitudes and opinions regarding immunization. I believe that vaccination is a cornerstone of public health, and it is important that our future healthcare providers are versed, not just in the science behind vaccines, but also in the political and societal aspects that can dramatically influence immunization policy.

Throughout the semester, students will be tweeting information and experiences surrounding vaccines (@ModernVaccines) to promote vaccine awareness and confidence. In addition, students will be researching current vaccines to evaluate their history, effectiveness and safety profile and will present their findings to their classmates. Classmates will then be responsible for converting the information from these scientific presentations into fun, engaging, and easily understandable information via interactive Buzzfeed articles – that will then also be shared via Twitter and other social media outlets!

While the social media aspect of the course will foster creativity in communication, students will also be responsible for honing their scientific skills by conducting a class research project regarding vaccine attitudes among healthcare providers. ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ is an active area of research within the field of vaccinology that explores the reasons people might abstain or delay vaccination, and it is generally assumed that healthcare providers do not promote vaccine hesitancy; however, this is not an area that has been widely explored. This means the students in this course will have the opportunity to generate their own hypotheses, test those hypotheses and generate original data—with the ultimate goal that the data can be publishable with the students as co-authors.

Twitter birdSupport our students in this course by following @ModernVaccines on Twitter. 
Also, please feel free to follow me @Dr_Gorski.


College-Bound Students: Don’t Forget to Pack These Necessities, Says USciences Prof

Hewitt-3189Thousands of students across Greater Philadelphia will soon start the next chapter of their lives as they begin their college journeys away from home. But with their new freedom comes the exposure to millions of germs while living and studying in close quarters with others, said Stacey Gorski, PhD, assistant professor of biological sciences at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

“Because students share many of the same spaces and items in places such as residence halls and dining areas, many germs can spread quickly and easily,” said Dr. Gorski, who specializes in immunology. “It’s scary when you think about it, but the more you know about their risks, the better you can protect yourself.” 

So as students pack their bags with necessities like clothing, bed linens, accessories, and electronics, Dr. Gorski also encourages them to remember to pack the following items to help minimize their contact to germs:

  • Flip flops for the shower. Communal bathrooms in residence halls—thanks to their generally moist nature—are breeding grounds for germs, such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Shower sandals can help protect students from catching viruses that can cause warts and fungi that commonly cause athlete's foot.
  • Laundry detergent. Students are probably unaware that they are sharing their bed with bacteria, yeast, and other fungi that can lead to skin infections and respiratory issues. Regularly washing bed linens, changing pillows, and showering at night can help reduce the number of germs in a student’s bed. Students should also avoid using their beds as seating areas for guests.
  • Disinfectant wipes. Viruses like the norovirus—commonly associated with gastrointestinal disease on cruise ships, but also a rising cause for concern on college campuses—can live and potentially infect a person for up to 7 days after being deposited on a surface. That’s why it is a good idea to wipe down shared objects, such as eating areas, desks, doorknobs, and keyboards, daily with disinfectant wipes.
  • Hand sanitizer.  Although soap and water works best for killing germs, alcohol-based hand gels can work in a pinch, especially for individuals who use public transportation, or do not have access to a sink for extended periods of time.

On a more serious note, Dr. Gorski also urges college-bound students to consider getting the HPV and influenza vaccinations. Both males and females should receive the three-dose HPV vaccine to protect themselves against preventable cervical, mouth, and throat cancers. She also added that flu shots are the best way to protect students against influenza and possibly missing weeks of class due to the highly-contagious virus. 


HealthAug. 21, 2015:
Add Germ Fighters to College Packing List


Biology Student Describes USciences Experience as 'Life Changing'

ReechaWith graduation day quickly approaching, Reecha Pandya BioSci'15 looked back on her experience at University of the Sciences and summed it up as "life changing."

“Over the past four years, I have grown so much as a student and as a person,” said Pandya. “I will remember, and cherish, my research experience in the Department of Biological Sciences because it was simply incredible.”

Pandya, a biomedical sciences major and economics minor, said the level of hands-on research that she conducted during her time at USciences has more than prepared her for graduate school and a future in the science and healthcare industries. During her last year at USciences, she worked closely with the biology department's brewing science expert, Dr. Matthew Farber, to explore the effects of hops on yeast protease activity in beer, as well as fermentation parameters' influence on protease activity in beer

“True career preparation comes from research experience,” she said. “Employers look for the kind of lab experience offered at USciences because they want to know that candidates are well-trained in basic lab techniques and know how to innovatea skill learned in the lab, not in class.”

Hewitt-7392With her undergraduate focus in science and business, Pandya plans to eventually pursue an executive MBA in the future to prepare her for a career that focuses on both the science and business aspects of a company. As for now, she is eager to continue her education at Johns Hopkins University in the fall and further her work in brewing science through a paid internship with a brewing company.

Prospective students should know that considering USciences means enlisting for a self-rewarding challenge, said Pandya.

"USciences can help you achieve your utmost potential if you are up for it," she said. "It is also very important to keep an open mind during your undergraduate years because doing so helped me get the most out of my education."



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


Students Prepared for Bioterrorist Attack During Medical Reserve Corps Training

Left to right: Alex Fevry PharmD'17, Soonyip Alec Huang PharmD'17, Khiem Huynh PharmD'17, and Ami Patel PharmD'17

A team of eight student-pharmacists from University of the Sciences joined more than 150 new volunteers with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps as they acted out a bioterrorist attack which required them to administer antibiotics to thousands of Philadelphians to help prevent the spread of a deadly bacterial infection.

This dramatic, but informational, training session was held at USciences on Saturday, Nov. 8, for these credentialed volunteers – who are typically seen providing medical care and first aid after major storms, or at large city events such as the Philadelphia Marathon.

“Bringing together such a diverse group of local healthcare professionals and students was a positive experience which reinforced USciences’ mission of promoting integrated learning and professionalism,” said Steven Sheaffer, PharmD, associate professor of clinical pharmacy.  

Although Dr. Sheaffer has been a member of the Medical Reserve Corps since 2007, he said regularly attends training sessions to keep up to speed with relief efforts and build stronger relationships with healthcare professionals across the Philadelphia region.

“I hope that more of our students across all disciplines consider attending future training programs and join the Medical Reserve Corps,” he said.

Aside from USciences pharmacy students and faculty, other volunteers at the training session included medical and doctoral students from University of Pennsylvania, nurses, as well as students and faculty from other local universities.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the mailing of anthrax-tainted letters to news media and U.S. senators painfully illustrated the need for more organized use of medical volunteers.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health launched the city’s unit in 2005, after Congress allocated money to establish the Medical Reserve Corps program office in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office. Philadelphia’s chapter now boasts more than 1,800 volunteers who offer their medical, pharmaceutical, behavioral health, and other skills.

“I wanted to volunteer for the medical corps to use my pharmacy education in way that allows me to give back to the community,” said Alex Fevry PharmD’17.

Media coverage:


Samson College Kicks Off 'Allied Health Week' on Nov. 3

Samson College of Health Sciences at University of the Sciences will kick off its Allied Health Week on Monday, Nov. 3, with "Mindful Meditation" at 12:15 p.m. in the IPEX, second floor.

Here's the agenda for the rest of the week:

Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. | IPEX, Room 139 | "FED UP"

Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. "Fed Up" is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see.

Wednesday, Nov. 5 at noon | IPEX Steps

“Walk with me Wednesday”

Thursday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. | IPEX, second floor

“Guiding Flame” Sculpture Dedication
(Dessert reception following dedication)

1 p.m. in ARC | IPE Volleyball Tournament

Anyone interested in signing up must sign up with a team of 6 in 4500 Woodland, Suite 100 by Wednesday, Nov. 5


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.


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.

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.”

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.


Students, Alumni, Staff Get Dirty to Fight Multiple Sclerosis, Raise Nearly $2K

MuckNearly a dozen students, alumni, and staff of University of the Sciences braved mud-filled pits, trenches, and craters as they participated in the Philadelphia MuckFest MS 5K on May 31. The team, dubbed Muddy Bunch, collectively raised nearly $2,000 to support the event’s mission of benefiting multiple sclerosis (MS) services and research.

"Just like the obstacles runners face during MuckFest MS Philadelphia, multiple sclerosis is unpredictable; you simply don't know what is going to happen next. That's why the money raised through this event is so important," said Tami Caesar, president of the National MS Society's Greater Delaware Valley Chapter.

This 5K fun-run is pure athletic hilarity, featuring a course packed with more than 20 outrageous and muddy obstacles. Each year, MuckFest MS Philadelphia attracts thousands of women and men, young and old, athletic and not-so-athletic, who band together on teams for a mucky 5K in support of a world free of MS.

Muck2It is not just about the fun and the slapstick shenanigans out on the course. There is also a mission behind the muck: 100% of funds raised by participants benefit the National MS Society, which provides programs and services that help people address the challenges of living with MS and funds cutting-edge research into the cause, treatment and a cure for MS.  MuckFest MS participants from across the United States have raised more than $16 million for the National MS Society.

For the past four years, Marc Caserio, director of campus recreation; and Marie Kiechel, fitness and wellness manager, have rallied together a group of USciences students to participate in the run. Caserio said this year's team was primarily made up of first-timers.

Team Muddy Bunch was made up of the following individuals: Kiki Chaudhary BI'15; Danielle Hoguet DPT'16; Brianna Ligotski DPT'18; Bhumi Patel PharmD'15; Priya Patel PA'14; Joshua Paul PharmD'15; Michael Rabinowitz PharmD'15; Robert Hand DPT ’14; Tyler Bartnick, friend of the University; Caserio, and Kiechel.

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