Discovering a Passion for Microbiology | Undergraduate Research at Moravian College

Discovering a Passion for Microbiology | Undergraduate Research at Moravian College


I always try to train research students to be my colleagues So, I’m Kara Mosovsky. I’m an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, I mostly teach microbiology and immunology. I’m Michelle Pomposello, and I’m a senior here I’m a biology major and I’m specializing my research in microbiology with Dr. Mosovsky. Coming to Moravian, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted science. So I started out chemistry then switched to bio-chem biology began to get involved in different types of research. So I worked with Dr. Irish with herpetology studying sand boas and I liked the research aspect. But the subject, it was cool, but it just it wasn’t really my forte. So then I spoke with Dr. Bertucci about his research with quorum sensing and I did a research project with him. That was really interesting but again, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I’m really interested in different diseases. I took microbiology with Dr. Mosovsky, and I became fascinated with the fact that there’s all these microbes everywhere and they affect everything. I spoke to her about starting a research project so we got started with the SOAR program and we started our research there and we looked at the combination treatment of an antibiotic with an immune stimulant that helps eliminate an infection. I liked it so much that I asked her if I could do an independent study with her and now we’re working on a manuscript for publication. We’re finishing up the manuscript and we hope to submit it to Plus One or a journal of bacteriology by the end of summer. Our research were looking at an intracellular infection. So that means the bacteria get inside of the cell. So we drew a model here to kind of explain what’s going on You have here little bacteria and then you have your white blood cells called macrophages which are what we work with in the laboratory. And the bacteria gets into the cell and usually it would be killed in one of these compartments but the thing with this type of bacteria is it escapes and starts to multiply and go from cell to cell traveling across the membranes until it becomes too numerous, and it places or explodes the cell. Our research specifically looks at antibiotics coming in and killing the bacteria that go outside of the cell so it can kill any that are not pelvis in the membrane anymore. We also combine the antibiotic with… it’s called an immune stimulant and the role of the immune stimulant is it increases reactive oxygen species in yourself, which is normally toxic, but when you have an infection the reactive oxygen species goes after the bacteria and begins to kill them within the cell. So it’s kind of a double whammy of the outside and inside cell killings. My research specifically looks at the role of antioxidants specifically, it’s called phenylmethylene. It’s found in chicken eggs, different foods that you eat and antioxidants in general decreased reactive oxygen species. So if you’re decreasing that factor, then you shouldn’t really see that killing of bacteria inside the cells. However, my research has found that the presence of the antioxidant actually decreases the infection with the cells and instead of killing the bacteria it’s actually ihibiting their growth which makes it harder for them to let go between cells and infect the other cells. So it’s pretty cool research. We found that the concentrations that seems to work the best at reducing the infection and saving the cells if you apply that same concentration of the antioxidant to a normal healthy cell it kills it. So it’s kind of finding that fine line of balance that it’s infected or not and being able to treat it. I don’t know another student who’s had more research experiences. So she’s had three and this last one has been a full year now working on the same project which means that she has mastered it and she mastered it a long time ago which was great because that enabled us to do so much. We’ve made so much progress. I feel like there’s a culture here that encourages me to make this type of relationship with students. I feel very fortunate to have the freedom and the flexibility to start research projects follow them through and to get to work so closely with students. By the end of SOAR, even even in the middle of SOAR in our first summer together, we were reading papers and being able to talk about the research at a level that was like a graduate level. It kind of helped ignite me as a student because I was doing well, but then once I got involved in this I just I was so excited and eager. And one of our lab mates asked me if I want to sleep in the lab because I’m always here. But I’m like, no I just genuinely like being here. I love Dr. Mosovsky to death. She was amazing. Working with her… she’s super knowledgeable, super supportive. She doesn’t ever give me just a straight: “This is the answer, this is what you should do.” She kind of helps me think through different processes. It’s a really great experience and I’m very fortunate that Moravian specifically allows this type of interaction and that’s kind of what drew me to the school. When I came here to visit the chemistry and biology departments were so welcoming. So friendly and supportive. They sat down tried to get to know me asked what I was interested in talked about their experiences, showed me that they care and that they’re not just there to teach you. They’re there to kind of mold you into who you want to be when you graduate. My end goal is to get my PhD in microbiology and immunology. I’m currently in the interview process with the company that I’m really interested in working with. They are contracted out by pharmaceutical companies to do different types of medical research. But no matter what I’m definitely going to end up… I’m either going to take a year to do more research and boost my GRE scores, or I’ll work with them and maybe follow their path, but I will be Doctor Pomposello one day in microbiology and immunology.

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