In partnership with Yale University, Florida Southern College freshmen participated in the “Small World Initiative,” by testing bacteria cultures to research cellular structure in a laboratory setting.
In hope to address issues facing the medical world, FSC’s contribution added to the research in fighting drug-resistant bacteria.
According to Yale’s initiative, physicians are fighting an antibacterial crisis due to pharmaceutical companies shifting toward lucrative drugs for chronic diseases and away from acute infectious disease.
Additionally, several of the antibiotics currently in use are losing their efficacy because of the development of widespread antibiotic resistance in pathogens.
Yale University formed this program to encourage research for students in introductory levels in science.
Doctors Nancy Morvillo and Brittany Gasper are leaders in FSC’s program.
“When the curriculum changed a few years ago we really tried to implement research at the junior senior level, thinking our students would be ready for research at that time. We’ve actually realized after a couple of years that we needed to be implementing it even earlier,” Morvillo said. “That’s one of the reasons why the Yale model was so great for us because we have been trying to look for ways of doing research earlier and earlier and introducing it into the freshman and sophomores.”
In a Biology 1500 level laboratory class, students collected soil samples around campus and the Lakeland area, placing them in different media to see what bacteria would grow. The students tested them to see if their bacteria produced substances that would kill other bacteria and later isolated the compounds being produced.
Research projects usually do not begin until junior or senior level classes.
“When Dr. Gasper found the Yale initiative it was just perfect because they had already basically worked out a project that was doable and could do without a lot of sophisticated equipment or knowledge,” Morvillo said. “It was something that was very relevant to society and something that’s very interesting for students so it was perfect.”
Dr. Gasper visited Yale last summer for training in this program. She joined with 24 other host individuals, like herself, from other institutions also participating in the program.
Gasper’s students found more bacteria in the soil than at Yale. Gasper said that it was likely because soil from this area is denser and the climate is warmer.
“Our program actually got a little head start. A lot of them [other colleges] have just started, a couple began last semester, but we’re one of the first colleges to actually start the program,” Gasper said.
After participating in this program Morvillo hopes to initiate more research programs into the curriculum across the department.
Typical planned labs with classroom lessons, known as “canned” labs, in the department, typically have a good chance of succeeding to a desired outcome, unlike the “Small World Initiative” experiment where any outcome was possible.
“It’s a great experience for all of them to have and they all are very glad, even those who aren’t planning on moving on with a science education or want to peruse research as their career. They were very glad that they had the experience,” Morvillo said. “We’ll be interested to see if early on research participation does help retention in sciences. We’re hoping it will.”
Students will continue to get soil samples and carry on research throughout the semester in ongoing experiments, in hope to get different bacteria.