Roanoke College seniors present at ASM conference

by Marcus Stewart on December 6, 2016

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Pictured above from left to right: Sara Farthing, Kirsten Norman, Savannah Scott

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) regional conferences are more intimate gatherings than the national conference where students and professors present their research projects and learn about others. Roanoke College students Savannah Scott, ’17, and Kirsten Norman, ’17, were two of the students who went to an ASM Virginia conference in November. Their research project was titled, “Development of Novel mcrA and pmoA qPCR Primers and Probe Targeting Methanogens and Methanotrophs in Cattle Farm Samples as a Method of Microbial Source Tracking”. They worked with Dr. Crozier to complete their research.

 

Both Savannah and Kirsten began the project over the summer.

Kirsten: “In the beginning of the summer we focused on researching more about methanogens and methanotrophs. Once we determined the genes we wanted to target, mcrA and pmoA, we moved on to the next step of primer and probe creation through the program Sequencher. Producing primers and probe allowed us to quantitatively analyze the amount of methanogens and methanotrophs in samples we acquired at the horse farm. What we hope to apply our research to in the future is microbial source tracking which allows one to track where contamination is coming from in bodies of water.”

Savannah really enjoyed working with Dr. Crozier to complete their project.

“My research adviser did a wonderful job in training me the first semester I started research. Then he took a hands-off approach once I figured out the direction of my project. This encouraged me to plan ahead, to learn how to think critically and to learn how to troubleshoot. If I was really stuck, however, he was always there to offer help and guidance.”

Both Savannah and Kirsten had a rewarding experience at the ASM conference

Savannah: “It was really exciting to be able to meet and talk to graduate students about their projects and how they got to where they are. I made many connections with graduate professors and got some insight into possibilities for future work in my field! Many of them offered great advice. Additionally, it was so fun to be in a room with people with the same interests!”

Kirsten: “It pushed me out of my comfort zone, but in a good way because it helped me gain confidence in presenting my research to people that have a lot of knowledge about the subject I am researching. It was inspiring to see what a wide range of people attending the conference including everything from undergraduate research students to graduate students in the progress of completing their Ph.D. Ultimately attending a conference such as this gives one a look into what life after undergraduate studies could look like.”

When asked about why they started and completed their research project, both Savannah and Kirsten saw it as a great experience for after graduation, but quickly grew to love the topic.

Savannah: “Shortly after beginning work in the lab, I realized a passion for microbiology. I continued my research fueled by ambition to find answers and natural curiosity about the subject itself and the techniques involved in microbiology research. I was encouraged by answers that lead to more questions, and the stubborn desire to know why. When the opportunity to present in a conference revealed itself, I was eager to present my findings to experts and professionals within the field I am working because of the insight they would be able to provide. I also knew it would be great experience for graduate school and my future career as a microbiologist.”

Kirsten: “I have a strong desire to pursue research post-graduation and that is what got me interested in performing research in the first place. Another reason as to why I have continued to participate in research is because of the interesting microorganisms we get to study in Crozier’s lab and just how well our lab works together in research.”

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