MC hosts American Society for Microbiology KY-TN Branch Meeting

Nov. 12, 2012
Contact: Mary Moates '14, Communications Assistant

On Oct. 26-27, Maryville College hosted the American Society for Microbiology KY-TN Branch Meeting in the College’s Alumni Gym.

More than 120 scientists, researchers and professors from Tennessee and Kentucky attended the annual meeting. Dr. Jennifer Brigati, associate professor of biology at MC, organized the event.

“Having it here at the College was really nice because it meant that our students could attend,” Brigati said.

The national American Society for Microbiology also hosts a national conference every year, but the society is split into regional branches, such as the Tennessee and Kentucky branch. Brigati said that the smaller yearly meeting for each branch is held in the hopes of being more accessible for graduate and undergraduate students.

Twenty-three scientists presented research sessions during the meeting, including keynote speaker Dr. Tom G. Schwan, chief of the Laboratory of Zoonotic Pathogens at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. He presented “Adaptions of Spirochetes for Acquisition and Transmission by Ticks.”

“The conference helped to get new ideas on teaching,” Brigati said. “It’s also a great way to stay current in the field.”

Over the weekend, professional scientists, graduate students and college students presented 40 posters.

MC biochemistry major Elisabeth Klouda ’13 of Knoxville, Tenn., won the award for “Best Student Poster Presentation” with her poster, “Clarification of interactions between two GPCRs in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.”

“I am so proud of her,” Brigati said. “We have some wonderful students here at Maryville, and it’s just a testament to how awesome our students are.”

Klouda said that she felt Maryville College helped prepare her for not only the science portion of her presentation, but also for public speaking.

“It’s nice to show several, much larger schools that Maryville students can definitely hang, and even surpass them in things like scientific research,” Klouda said.

For two years in a row, MC students have been the winners for the poster award at the branch meeting. Jeffrey Hoover ’12 won the award at the 2011 meeting.

“I’m very happy and proud that those are students who came out of my lab,” Brigati said of Klouda and Hoover.

Biology major David Lee Haskins ’14 of Philadelphia, Tenn., presented a poster titled “Heat Shock Analysis of the Association Between Glucose-sensing and Pheromone-sensing GPCR pathways.”

“Posters presentations are what scientists do,” Brigati said. “When you go to a meeting, there are more posters than anything else. It’s a great opportunity for our students to have that real experience.”

As participants and interns for NSF-funded yeast cell research that was administered by the College from 2010 until 2012, both Klouda and Haskins conducted the research portions of their poster presentations during the summer of 2012, according to Brigati. The students worked for 40 hours a week for 10 weeks in laboratories on campus. Using this research, they composed their posters this fall before the branch meeting.

“Participating in the conference was a huge step for me academically and a huge experience for me to put under my belt,” Haskins said. “I found it very fun to be able to not only talk about what I had worked on all summer, but to also be able to ask other scientists questions about their studies.”

MC students Robert Adams ’14, Winode Handagama ’15, Onyekachi Ononye ’14 and Sarah Manning ’15 also attended the branch meeting.

“This was a great opportunity for the students to meet faculty from UT and other schools with master’s and doctoral programs,” Brigati said. “They were able to talk to faculty from these institutions and others about summer internship opportunities.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.