Microbiologist Wins NSF GrantGAMBIER, Ohio (March 18, 2011)
Student involvement in major scientific research at Kenyon has received new support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The agency recently notified Professor of Biology Joan L. Slonczewski of a $453,000 Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grant to fund her project "Acid and Base Stress in Escherichia Coli." The grant is intended to support undergraduate-centered research and will be used in Slonczewski's laboratory to pay student researchers and hire a full-time lab assistant.
The team will use genetic techniques to focus on the pH (environmental) stress response in E. coli, knowledge of which can lead to better long-term health treatments, such as the development of new antibiotics. "The research has important implications for human health because E. coli goes through the stomach," Slonczewski said.
The grant is one of the highest rated of Slonczewski's twenty-year career at Kenyon as a microbiologist and international authority on bacterial pH. "Even though I have maintained continuous funding for my research, to be so highly rated in my category was unusual for me. I think one reason for it was my systematic approach to involve undergraduates," Slonczewski said.
NSF-RUI grants recognize the important role undergraduate institutions play in the development of U.S. science and technology through research and education. They strengthen the research environment in undergraduate instruction and promote the integration of research and education. The involvement of undergraduate students is an important feature of RUI awards.
Slonczewski's innovative research program attracts some of the nation's finest science students, who learn lab techniques, write proposals, design and conduct experiments, and draft manuscripts for publication. Many of her students go to on to graduate school and most pursue careers as scientists.
"The students tremendously enhance the productivity of my research because they are very creative in their thinking and sometimes come up with their own ideas that start new branches of our project," Slonczewski said.
In addition to teaching and pursuing research, Slonczewski has coauthored an undergraduate textbook in microbiology. Microbiology: An Evolving Science was published in 2008.