Fayetteville State students visit ECU biology lab
Undergraduate students from Fayetteville State University visited East Carolina University’s Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building last month to participate in a summer research experience as part of a continuing effort to develop partnerships and pathways between the two institutions.
Over the past two years, leaders at ECU and FSU have worked to establish early assurance agreements outlining the criteria and requirements to guarantee admission of FSU undergraduate students into ECU graduate programs including fine arts, kinesiology, biology and network technology. As part of the partnership, the two schools also agreed to collaborate to provide experiential learning opportunities and best practice programming for student success, retention and transition into graduate programs.
In June, ECU graduate and undergraduate students and Dr. Ariane Peralta, associate professor of biology, hosted a group of students led by FSU’s Dr. Danielle Graham, assistant professor of microbiology and assistant chair of the Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences, for a three-day visit to study soil bacteria and share knowledge and lab protocols.
“The visit provided the opportunity for students to learn from each other at the bench and to facilitate near peer mentoring of ECU graduate students and ECU and FSU undergraduates,” Peralta said. “We are following up the in-person visit with weekly lab meetings where we update on research highlights and geek out on soil microbiology.”
The students worked to identify soil bacteria that were isolated from the environment and measure how fast the different bacteria grow. They also toured the long-term ecology experiment at ECU’s West Research Campus where the field samples were taken. Peralta said the FSU students will conduct additional microbiology-based tests to examine antibiotic resistance and biofilm formation.
“Growing fast, protecting yourself from being eaten, or killing an enemy can make a bacterium more competitive in an already stressful soil environment,” she said. “We want to understand how known differences in environmental conditions influence these kinds of bacterial traits. This work will provide insight into fertilization effects on microbial traits that can have consequent impacts on carbon storage such as biofilm formation enhancing carbon storage capacity and antibiotic resistance altering rates of microbial turnover.”
Graham said the collaboration was a rewarding experience for the FSU students and for her.
“This research collaboration not only expands our research initiatives, but also exposes FSU undergraduate students to a variety of research techniques, builds their network, and allows them to gain necessary skills to be competitive applicants for graduate and professional schools,” she said.
Sarina Maybank, a senior biology major at FSU, said the visit exceeded her expectations.
“At first, I thought I would be completely lost and have no idea what I was doing when I sat down at the lab bench,” the Fayetteville native said. “But I realized that a lot of the work was not that far off from what I have done in Dr. Graham’s lab in the past. I do believe that learning the ropes in a research lab different from what I am used to was a necessary experience, and I even learned a few techniques that I have already started using back in the lab at FSU.”
But what really left an impression was the atmosphere, she said. “Even if the protocols were laborious, no one was afraid to crack a joke and lighten the mood. I could tell that the undergraduate and graduate students in the lab genuinely enjoyed what they were doing and enjoyed spending time with each other.”
Maybank said she is considering graduate school at ECU in microbiology and encourages other students to participate in the schools’ collaborative offerings.
“This in-person visit kicked off what will be a long-term collaboration,” Peralta said. “It was fun and energizing getting together in person and exchanging ideas about current and future work and also sharing our research methods and experiences.”