22:04 PM

DMC student Elizabeth Rocklage places first during recent American Society of Microbiology Texas Branch Spring state meeting

Biotechnology major participated as one of 88 college, university presenters overall and earned top prize among undergraduate students who presented research posters in Bacteriophage Microbiology category

Article by Melinda Eddleman

Competition included postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students representing 31 different higher education institutions from across Texas. Only five were community colleges.

DMC Biotechnology major Elizabeth Rocklage_American Society of Microbiology Award_March 2024.jpeg

Of the 88 presentations made by student participants, 59 were undergraduates who gave poster presentations, and one student winning the top prize in the Bacteriophage Microbiology category was Del Mar College (DMC) Biotechnology major Elizabeth Rocklage for her research, “The isolation and characterization of the bacteriophage Erock.”

The competition was held last month by the American Society of Microbiology Texas Branch during their  Spring state meeting in Cedar Hill, Tx.

Rocklage vied for the award not only against three other DMC students in the same category––Sierra Martinez, Teresa Sanchez and Catherine Wright––she also competed against 25 other students representing Baylor University, LeTourneau University (Longview), Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University in  College Station, Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas.

This experience has helped me build confidence as a speaker and as a scientist. Once I graduate from Del Mar, I plan to transfer to a four-year university and continue my undergraduate research experience. Attending and being placed in two conferences during the past academic year have improved my ability to get into the programs I would like to [complete].

Elizabeth Rocklage, Biotechnology major

To understand Rocklage’s research , first individuals need to know what bacteriophages are–––a type of virus that infects bacteria. And, they have multiple uses in research and in medical fields such as vectors for moving genes and as alternative treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Rocklage’s project used a novel bacteriophage that she isolated from a soil sample and named “Erock.” Through a series of extractions, testing and conclusions, Rocklage’s project determined that Erock would not make a suitable candidate for antibiotic replacement but could be a tool to study gene transfer, which won her first place in the Bacteriophage Microbiology poster competition.

Her abstract for the competition is attached as a downloadable PDF file in the upper right-hand corner above "CONTACTS."

Under the instruction and mentorship of Dr. Daiyuan “Daisy” Zhang, Professor of Biotechnology in the College’s Natural Sciences Department, the sophomore first presented her work with bacteriophages last October and placed third during a Health Sciences and Technology Research Symposium. The poster  competition pitted Rocklage and four other DMC students against graduate students conducting research at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Driscoll Children’s Hospital and CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital.

Dr. Zhang noted, “It’s very important for Del Mar College to take students to regional and national meetings not just to attend but also to compete. They get the chance to present their undergraduate research data to the scientific community and possibly place during competition; and, they also have a chance to learn more from their peers, build connections with four-year schools and open doors to future employment opportunities.”

Most of all, experiences like these are a major boost for students’ communication skills, people skills and overall confidence as young scientists. 

Dr. Daiyuan “Daisy” Zhang, Professor of Biotechnology
About Del Mar College

Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.