Biotechnology Major Tara Clancy Takes First Place in National CCURI Competition for Research in Bacteriophages
Article by: Jason Houlihan
After coming in second place for the past three years, Del Mar College (DMC) student Tara Clancy brought home first place honors from the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) Fall Colloquium held earlier this month in Austin, Texas.
These types of competitions put Del Mar in the national arena and set a precedent for the kind of research that can come out of a two-year institutiont.
The colloquium is designed to provide community college students conducting undergraduate research the opportunity to share that research, develop professional meeting skills and network with other students from across the country.
Under the guidance of Daiyuan “Daisy” Zhang, associate professor of biotechnology, and Hatherill, both PhDs with the College, Clancy discovered a new, potentially harmful bacterium and found a way to kill it.
These bacteria are smart, and they know how to transfer genes that don’t allow the antibiotic to work. Basically, the bacteria out-think the antibiotic and outperform it. Our solution is these cool little things called ‘bacteriophage’ that come in, destroy the bacteria and do no harm to the host.
Bacteriophage are invisible viruses that attack bacteria living around us and inside us. Some of those bacteria are dangerous, such as E. coli, Vibrio and antibiotic resistant “superbugs.”
Clancy’s project was to find a bacteriophage solution to help combat infections in animals and humans caused by the antibiotic resistant bacterium, Ochrobactrum intermedium. During her 10-week summer internship at Del Mar, she found a bacteriophage with potential to be an alternative to current methods of treatment.
“This is an incredible level of research for an undergraduate program,” said Zhang. “We do graduate-level research in the Del Mar lab with students from the beginning.”
“We started doing work with bacteriophage back in 2011,” added Zhang, who noted that to date, students in Del Mar’s Natural Sciences Department have cataloged 117 previously undiscovered bacteriophage in The Actinobacteriophage Database at www.phagesdb.org.
The Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) is a national consortium of community colleges, four-year schools, government agencies, and private organizations dedicated to the development, implementation, and assessment of sustainable models for integrating an undergraduate research (UR) experience into community college STEM programs. Over the last 5 years the National Science Foundation has invested over $5.2 million dollars in CCURI though grant awards to Finger Lakes Community College. These awards have funded the growth of a national network of over 40 community colleges that have implemented the CCURI model of undergraduate research. Students from within the network have competed with top notch 4-year college and university students to win awards for high quality research and have contributed work to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
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