Biology Students to Present Antibiotic Research at U.S. Capitol

Biology Students to Present Antibiotic Research at U.S. Capitol

Laeticia Iboki (right) and a former classmate will present their research this spring on Capitol Hill about a new antibiotic. Betsy Roberts (left), assistant professor of biology, will join them.

A pair of Southern biology students have been selected to present on Capitol Hill their discovery of a type of bacteria that may have valuable antibiotic properties.

The students will participate in the Posters on the Hill program, sponsored by the national Council of Undergraduate Research. It features 60 student research projects from more than 300 applicants across the nation. The program will be held on April 19 and 20, when students will offer poster presentations of their work to members of Congress, Congressional aides and representatives of federal agencies.

Jacqueline Mary Desrosier, a Guilford resident who just graduated from SCSU, found the bacteria during an advanced microbiology course last spring. The course, part of a nationwide program called the Small World Initiative, enabled students to isolate soil bacteria in the hopes of finding new antibiotics. During the course, she found this type of bacteria inhibited several pathogenic bacteria.

During the summer and fall, she and Laeticia Iboki, a resident of Stratford, performed experiments with this “good bacteria,” and showed that it not only killed harmful bacteria, but also helped tomato plants grow larger and withstand heat stress.

“Both young women have worked extremely hard on this project,” said Elizabeth Lewis Roberts, an SCSU assistant professor of biology who teaches the microbiology course. “Jackie came in to work with me on the project over the summer when she wasn’t getting any course credit, and Laeticia did the same last fall. The project is significant because we’ve found another example where bacteria — best known for causing disease — are creating a product that can control other disease causing microbes and can help plants survive harsh environmental conditions.”

Patricia Zibluk, director of the SCSU Sponsored Programs and Research (SPAR) program, said she was elated to learn that the students’ application was accepted in a very competitive environment. SPAR coordinated the application process.

“It is a testament to Southern’s growing emphasis on giving our students genuine research experiences that foster their intellectual growth and creativity,” Zibluk said.

The Small World Initiative – which is independent of the Posters on the Hill program — is an international undergraduate research collaborative designed to help address the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics through the discovery of antibiotics from soil bacteria. Last spring, more than five dozen colleges and universities – including SCSU — participated in the program. SCSU is taking part again this semester.