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UC Students to Present at Microbiology Conference

Aaronson is "3 for 3" with student projects, presenters

Written By Victoria Lamanna '15, PR Intern

Utica College undergrads to present at national conference in Boston


Utica, NY (04/17/2014)
- When Daniele Casper, a senior biology student at Utica College, registered for her required microbiology class, she had no idea what she was signing herself up for. Little did she know that she would soon find a new passion for research that would lead her and four classmates to a national microbiology conference in Boston to present their research findings.

Lawrence Aaronson, Harold R. Clark Jr. Professor of Microbiology (2010-2015) at UC, has led research groups for more than 27 years. This marks Aaronson’s third consecutive year that undergraduate researchers from his lab have presented three posters at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), a convention that attracts thousands of microbiologists annually to share research findings and network with other scientists.

“I love taking my undergraduate researchers to the ASM meeting,” Aaronson said. “There are very few undergraduates who attend these meetings, and I am always delighted with the reactions of my colleagues when they realize that they are listening to undergraduates presenting such impressive research, instead of the usual graduate students or postdoctoral fellows.”

Casper’s research partner, senior biochemistry major Danielle McHarris, will accompany her to the meeting to present their research on Pseudomonas uticensis, a bacterium that was first isolated in the Aaronson laboratory at UC in 2003 from red-backed salamanders.

“Danielle and I are both newcomers to microbial research, so this is the first time we have submitted a poster to the ASM,” said Casper. “We are both very excited and a little anxious to attend our first ASM meeting and present our experimental data. We have enjoyed working with our mentor, Dr. Aaronson, who is always supportive, understanding and willing to help. The three of us made a great team.”

At the start of their research, both Casper and McHarris tested the antifungal ability of the bacteria on a fungus that often affects humans. Since then, their research has branched out to incorporate other fungi and the two have begun work on generating mutant strains of the original bacteria.

“Microbiology has allowed me to experience and enjoy the world of scientific research and has given me a chance to explore my opportunities for the future,” said Casper. “I plan to attend veterinary school, and now with my new-found love of research, I am considering incorporating veterinary research into my career plan.”

This year will also mark the second consecutive year that Aaronson’s student, Kristina Shikula, a senior biology student at UC, has presented two posters at the meeting. “I wanted some hands-on experience in biology before I graduate from Utica College,” said Shikula. “Research was the best way, in my opinion, to really get to know what was taught in the classroom.”

Shikula executed the two projects with fellow biology student Courtney Healy, and both cooperated with Meghan Morreale, a senior studying chemistry, to complete the second. “It is really great to work as a team on a project like this,” said Shikula. “When my schedule does not permit me to run an experiment, the work can move forward and my partner can still run it.” All three students will present their findings at the conference.

The ASM awarded Shikula the prestigious ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship, allowing her to conduct her research projects throughout the summer. Shikula and 36 other students across the nation were selected as recipients of the 138 who applied. Along with the research stipend, she received a two-year ASM student membership and funds to travel to the ASM Capstone Institute and the ASM General Meeting.

“I am so proud of my research team,” said Aaronson, “and am looking forward to an exciting time in Boston.”

Most of the research projects were conducted last summer and were submitted to the ASM in early January. The four-day conference will be held in mid-May.

About Utica College – Utica College, founded in 1946, is a comprehensive private institution offering bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. The College, located in upstate central New York, approximately 90 miles west of Albany and 50 miles east of Syracuse, currently enrolls over 4,000 students in 36 undergraduate majors, 27 minors, 21 graduate programs and a number of pre-professional and special programs.


Robert Halliday, Ph.D.
Associate Provost
201B DePerno Hall

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