While most college students were using their summers to work, get internship experience or relax on the beach, a group of students dedicated their vacation time to scientific research in the labs at Cabrini. As a part of The SouthEastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education (SEPCHE) program, students from different schools came together in Iadarola to be a part of the summer course-based undergraduate research experience (S-CURE). SEPCHE students come from eight different schools, including Cabrini, Chestnut Hill College, Neumann University, Immaculata University and Gwynedd Mercy University. The program gives SEPCHE schools the opportunity to offer undergraduate research to students.
“National research suggests that only one in four students who want a research experience have access to one,” Beth Moy, executive director of SEPCHE, said. “To find a way to expand access to discovery-based undergraduate research opportunities would be transformative for undergraduate science education.”
Moy has been working with Dr. David Dunbar, associate professor of science at Cabrini, and Dr. Chris Jernstedt at Dartmouth College, to develop and refine the assessment instruments for this course. Additionally, they are working with colleagues across the country to develop related tools to improve assessment of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute network of Sea-Phages Cures to which this course is contributing. During the course, students isolate and characterize bacteriophages that can infect different bacterial hosts, such as mycobacteria.
“Tuberculosis is a mycobacteria, so our work isolating mycobacteriophages can possibly assist us in how we can use phages for phage therapy to cure people of this devastating disease,” Dunbar said.
“All of this would not be possible without the strong support of Cabrini President Don Taylor, Provost Jeff Gingerich, Science Chair Anne Coleman, Registrar Fran Harkness, Dean George [and] Stroud, Cabrini family members who have supported this effort,” Moy said. “Across SEPCHE, there are literally dozens of faculty and staff who have given voluntarily of their time and energy to nominate students, get them registered and ensure its smooth running. It’s awesome and inspiring to be a part of that collective spirit of contribution on behalf of our students.”
Neumann University student Katrina Terry, junior biology major, spent her second summer in a row doing research isolating bacteriophages.
“Cabrini is an excellent research opportunity for SEPCHE students,” Terry said. “We are independent and we are able to perform research and learn from each other.”
Terry was one of the teaching assistants this summer for Dunbar’s class. Students and TAs, who helped the students as well as continued their own researched, received three credits towards their various degrees for their research, as well as life and career experience.
“I have at least one publication out of this so far, and that is really important as an undergraduate,” Terry said. “I am planning to go to graduate school after I graduate.