Mayor Toni N. Harp Wednesday honored a group of Southern science students – including a New Haven Promise Scholar — for earning a bronze medal at a recent international synthetic biology competition.
Harp presented the SCSU students, as well as faculty and administrators, with a proclamation at a ceremony at Southern on the Green, located on the 10th floor of 900 Chapel St.
The students competed in October at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition in Boston, where they presented their research on trying to find a faster testing method to detect tuberculosis.
The event included nearly 300 teams of students – mostly undergraduates, but some graduate students and high school students. It marked the first time Southern competed in the program, and SCSU was among only three teams from Connecticut to do so this year. Yale University and the University of Connecticut also earned bronze medals.
Julio Badillo, an SCSU student and a New Haven Promise scholar, was a member of the team.
“We are so proud of Julio and the entire team of Southern students,” Harp said before reading the proclamation. “(Their work) is awe-inspiring.”
The students’ accomplishment was so inspiring that it brought one of Badillo’s former teachers to the ceremony.
Lana Rowan, a teacher in the New Haven Public Schools, was Badillo’s freshman biology teacher when he was a student at the Connecticut Scholars Academy, a sub school of Wilbur Cross High School.
“Julio was an A-student and someone who was motivated and asked questions in class,” Rowan said. “But I also remember him being one of the nicest students in class and was generally a pretty quiet kid. We are very proud of him.”
Rowan said she was told about the ceremony by Richard Therrien, science supervisor for the school system, and she immediately expressed an interest in attending, along with Therrien.
Several of the students presented a synopsis of the team’s work during the ceremony.
“We are very proud of you,” said SCSU President Joe Bertolino. “You have represented yourselves well as scientists, and you also have represented Southern well.”
The project was the latest example of a partnership SCSU forged in 2015 with the city of New Haven, as well as the region’s bioscience industry. The agreement, named “BioPath,” calls for SCSU to expand its bioscience offerings and to work with area school systems in the development of curricula to prepare them for college-level programs in the biosciences. The biosciences are an important economic sector for Connecticut, employing nearly 25,000 people statewide. The Greater New Haven region is the No. 2 bioscience cluster in New England with companies advancing the science in oncology, antibiotics, rare disease treatments and other specialties. Notable companies include: Alexion, Arvinas, Achillion, Melinta and BioArray.
As part of the BioPath agreement, the city has agreed to assist with grant applications that would help pay for equipment and other expenses, as well as promote the new SCSU programs with local businesses, and to assist with internships for SCSU students at biotech companies.
SCSU opened a new, high-tech science building before the start of the fall 2015 semester that has provided students with more research and laboratory opportunities in areas such as biology, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, earth science, marine studies and more.
The team sought to develop a screening test for TB that is both accurate and speedy. The more accurate tests today require a wait that can take several weeks before learning the results.
The DNA materials that the team generated have been sent to a repository where future college teams from around the globe can use to advance this effort. In addition, Thomas Hoang, a member of the SCSU team, will seek to finish the project on his own after securing an SCSU undergraduate research grant.