On Thursday September 23, Dr. Jared Heffron visited the Hampden-Sydney College Biology Department to give a seminar entitled “Reawakening Anthrax Spores” which focused on his recent research involving the pathogenic bacterium Bacillus antrhracis. Dr. Heffron graduated from H-SC in 2004 with Honors in Biology and recently earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Heffron delivered an exciting, enthusiastic talk about his research on B. anthracis, particularly as it related to the role of the SleB protein in germination of bacterial endospores into active microorganisms. Dr. Heffron’s research has led to several publications in peer-reviewed journals, and he recently received a National Academy of Science Research Associate Fellowship to continue his work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Bacteriology Division of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where he will be working toward the generation of a combined vaccine against Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of Bubonic plague. Dr. Heffron was also quick to point out in his talk just how well he had been prepared as a scientist, a writer, and a speaker during his time at H-SC. He is living proof that as the saying goes, “You really can do anything with a degree from Hampden-Sydney!”
The genetics class has begun an exciting original project in coordination with the Partnership for Research and Education in Plants (PREP) program at Virginia Tech. The project, coordinated by Dr. Erin Dolan and featuring the research program of Dr. Dorothea Tholl, both Virginia Tech professors, seeks to understand the roles of various genes in the ability of plants to defend themselves from insect herbivores. Using the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana, the class will design and conduct original experiments and, by doing so, directly contribute to an active Virginia Tech research program.
On September 20 Dr. Dolan visited H-SC to introduce the project and help the students begin their A. thaliana plantings:
The class will compare the ability of a number of A. thaliana strains with mutations to key regulatory genes to assess which genes play the most significant role in defending the plants against herbivory against insects.
We will update how the class is doing with their research as the semester progresses.
Yonathan Tarekegne Ararso.– Over the summer, I spent 8 weeks working on a Herpetology research project with Dr. Rachel Goodman. The project was a survey on the presence of infectious diseases Ranavirus and the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis—which have contributed to the significant loss of the world’s amphibian & reptilian population. Our survey took place on three different sites in the Prince Edward County area: Briery Creek Wild Life Management, Chalgrove Lake (HSC), and Tadpole Hole Pond (HSC). We captured and collected data on over 170 turtles and 140 frogs. From the sites, we collected tissue samples and swabs to be tested via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) at a laboratory in University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine
A significant part of the project was field work, so I learned a lot about trapping, hand capturing, collecting data, and handling amphibians and reptiles. The research and writing aspect of the project was also a great experience.
The past summer saw a number of successful research projects performed by Hampden-Sydney students in the division of Natural Science and Mathematics. These students had the opportunity to present their work to the public on September 2 by producing posters that described their findings. Among this group were 6 biology majors who presented work ranging from molecular biology to organic chemistry to field ecology. Congratulations to Arne Ulbrich ’11, Tyler Moore ’11, Jonathan Park ’12, Osric Forrest ’12, Allen Luck ’12, and Yonathan Ararso ’13 on your summer success!