Students and Alumni Vocal, Board Still Silent on Presidential Candidate Search

Halfway through October, there is still no word on the College’s next president. The Board of Trustees will meet Monday, Oct.18 to discuss the presidential search in a closed session by teleconference, a conversation that began at their last executive session on Oct. 3. As the Board deliberates, the campus buzzes with speculation and differing perspectives on the candidates.

Two weeks ago, at the conclusion of the presidential candidates’ campus visits, the Presidential Search Committee delivered their recommendations to the Board of Trustees. The recommendations have not been disclosed.

Some candidates have been receiving more attention on campus than others. In particular, there is a vocal group of alumni and students that oppose the potential selection of Jim Bacchus and have sent petitions to the Board of Trustees.

Most recently, 166 College alumni signed a letter arguing that Bacchus holds a narrow perspective on liberal arts and as a non-academic candidate, “he lacks higher education administrative experience and institutional fundraising experience.”

According to Ben Wyskida ‘99, many alumni were impressed with Baenninger’s experience in higher education and fundraising. He suggested that if polled, the alumni would most likely split between Baenninger and beginning a new search.

The letter also expresses concerns about clients Bacchus has represented through the Global Practice Group of Greenberg Traurig in Washington, DC and his 8 years as a judge on the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization. Among the clients the alumni group finds most questionable are New Balance, Lennar Corporation and Group Menatep. Bacchus’ role in representing these companies is unclear, and in no case is there any indication of wrongdoing on his part. However, signatories feel it is fair to “ask whether or not his work for those institutions is consistent with the values of the College.”

Additionally, the letter asserts that three academic departments have rated Bacchus as unacceptable. However, according to Wyskida, these three departments have not been identified.

Faculty members have denied that this is the case. “I haven’t seen anything that indicates three whole departments don’t approve of a particular candidate,” said Chair of the Political Science Department, Michael J. G. Cain. “The faculty did not agree on all the candidates, but there was a good exchange, and a lot of people learned from the discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.”

Prior to receiving the alumni letter, the Board of Trustees also received a student petition against Bacchus with 157 signatures. Petitioners offer the same argument addressed in the alumni letter. According to organizer Tess Wier, Bacchus’ potential strength as a fundraiser is not a sufficient quality for the next president. “I think the other candidates, particularly Kate Conway-Turner, have much more of a St. Mary’s feel to them; they are interested in issues of diversity and critical thinking, and they have experiencing approaching these through their work in higher education, which I think is the epitome of what a college president should do,” Wier said.

However, other students disagree with the petition and feel the anti-Bacchus movement is negative for the campus. “Voicing opposition to one or more candidates without promoting another surrounds the search with a lot of negativity and weakens our ability to find the best president for St. Mary’s,” said Vice President of SGA, Lisa Neu.

“It elevates his visibility above other candidates, who if offered the job may feel that the sole reason they were chosen was the fact that they are not Bacchus,” she said. “These candidates are also exploring opportunities at other schools, and from their perspective, why should they want to accept a second-hand offer? Also, if Bacchus is selected, the perceived hostility may affect the College’s ability to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract, and affect his opinion of the school.”

Some faculty members agreed. “The search committee has done a good job vetting candidates. I don’t think it’s the purpose of faculty, alumni or students to find things that would disqualify candidates in the eleventh hour,” said Cain.

Two members of the faculty served on both this Presidential Search and the last search that brought former President Maggie O’Brien to St. Mary’s—Bob Paul and Lorraine Glidden. According to Paul, there was none of the same opposition to any of the candidates in the last presidential search. However, Glidden said, “Campus opinion of candidates wasn’t as transparent last time.”

While campus views are widespread, members of the Search Committee have offered assurance that all constituencies were represented fairly. “I think the recommendation was made with a broad cross sectional view,” said Paul.  “I have to listen to everybody, not just the loudest. There was strong support for some candidates and opposition to others but our charge was to represent the total faculty opinion. I think…we were fair and impartial.”

Before the next President is announced, the Board must decide on a candidate, await the candidate’s acceptance, and come to an agreement on a contract.

“It takes a lot of negotiation, such as salary and term of service. It takes a while, I think in Maggie’s case it may have been as long as two months,” said Paul.

Campus Drug Referrals Reach a Nine Year High

Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found on campus. (File Photo)
Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found on campus. (File Photo)

The Office of Public Safety recently released the annual crime statistics for 2008.  One statistic is particularly eye catching: drug use on campus has nearly doubled compared to the past nine years.

The report, dating back to 2000, shows the number of drug referrals on campus have sat around 40 and never went above 50 referrals for drug use.  However, in 2008 the number nearly doubled, with 90 referrals by Public Safety for students with drugs.

The annual crime report is a compiled list of crimes that have occurred on campus throughout the year.  It combines the statistics that Public Safety and Judicial Board compile throughout the year.  A referral is what Public Safety gives to a student who is caught breaking campus policies which sends him or her to Judicial Board for disciplinary action.

According to Sgt. Tony Brooks, Supervisor of Public Safety, that the most common drug found on campus is marijuana and that “students have gotten bold and are now doing drugs much more openly than in the past.”  He also believes that this trend in both increased drug usage and referrals is going to continue unless the College puts more pressure on students with tougher punishments against those that use and sell drugs.

Dean of Students Laura Bayless also had some worries about the statistics from the 2008 crime report. She is afraid that the College has a higher perceived drug use compared to national standards.

“The culture of the College has a relaxed view on drug use, specifically marijuana, which worries me,” she said. She said that drug use affects the students’ abilities to think critically, which then affects their school work, which should be their reason for being at the College.

Bayless said that there has not been any talk of raising the minimum sanctions for drug policy violations that are specified in To The Point, the College’s policy handbook.

Some students view the crime report and the jump in the number of drug referrals in 2008 compared to past years as astonishing information.  Sophomore Colleen Simpson said that she feels that people are just being foolish, and that they are getting caught more.

However, she thinks that this means that “Public Safety and Residence Life staff are taking a hard stance on drugs, which is a good thing in making the campus safer for all students.”

Overall, the jump in drug use cannot be defined as a trend with only one year’s set of data, but both Brooks and Bayless expressed that they feel that this trend will continue to rise unless something is done to bring a halt to the number of students using illegal drugs.  To see the full crime report statistics for 2008 and years past, visit the St. Mary’s Office of Public Safety Web site, http://www.smcm.edu/publicsafety/annualreport.html.

MD College Porn Policy Raises Questions about Screwing with Free Speech

By December 1, the College will have adopted a new policy regulating showings of pornographic material on campus. (Image Courtesy of Instock Images)
By December 1, the College will have adopted a new policy regulating showings of pornographic material on campus. (Image Courtesy of Instock Images)

In response to the showing of an XXX-rated film on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus in April of this year, the Maryland General Assembly is in the process of drafting a new policy for screening pornographic films.  The issue arose because the film was showed for entertainment rather than academic purposes on state property using state resources. State colleges and universities must now adopt a policy for showing pornographic or unrated films or their funding may be revoked.

A free speech specialist from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression submitted recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the language of a potential policy. Laura Bayless, the Dean of Students, explained that St. Mary’s is in the process of producing the “best version” of the policy for the campus. While the General Assembly may be “trying to link funding of state institutions with control over showing such films,” Bayless points out that the new policy will not limit anyone. It will simply require that the showing of a pornographic film be coupled with an educational program. The policy will be adopted by Dec. 1.

The main issue surrounding the new policy is that it could limit our First Amendment right of free speech. Freedom of expression also extends to associated rights, for example freedom to see and hear whatever we want. Susan Grogan, professor of Political Science, notes that the state could approach this concern in a variety of ways.

Because the film was viewed on state property, it could be taken that the “state” showed the film, and thus is entitled to some form of scrutiny. While we do not “leave our Constitutional rights at the school house door,” Grogan remarks that the Supreme Court has “cast doubt” upon this by separating issues of free speech from those of  “proper decorum” in school.  This action by the state can also be seen as a form of “parens patriae,” or government acting as the parent to the community. The state could argue that its responsibility to protect others from seeing such films.

Grogan also poses the question, “What constitutes the kind of obscenity that a nation or state has the right to prohibit? This is another valid claim that students might have. Still, it seems that the legal standards for this policy are obviously more about the educational concern than banning pornography entirely.

The new policy will most likely affect professors who incorporate pornography into their classes and the students that attend those classes. Joanne Klein, a Theater, Film, and Media Studies professor, said, “Traditionally and necessarily, college and university campuses have been a bulwark against abridgement of free speech. Aside from being impossible to define, pornography is protected speech.” However, because there is no concrete regulation at this point, Klein cannot “predict what implications” the policy might have for classes.

It is important for the language in the policy to be clear, especially when it comes to ratings. The concern is that some documentary and old films do not have a Motion Picture Association of America rating. In this case, the film would need to be incorporated into an educational program. However as Dean Bayless notes, most films of this type are already shown as part of such a program.

The campus should expect the updated policy to appear on the Judicial Affairs web page, as well as in the new student handbook.

Stretched Capacity Forces Students into Triples and Quads

Although forced triples and quads leave students squeezed for space, some students said that they would rather live in crunched quarters than leave their current roommates behind. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)
Although forced triples and quads leave students squeezed for space, some students said that they would rather live in crunched quarters than leave their current roommates behind. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)

With 1,618 students living on a campus built for 1,571 residents, the College is currently at 102.9 percent capacity.

The rate of overcrowding is less than the previous fall, which saw the College at 105 percent capacity, and the same methods as last year are being employed to deal with the limited living space, said Kelly Smolinsky, Assistant Director of Residence Life. Study rooms in the overcrowded residence halls have been turned into quads, and many of the corner rooms in the dorms have been turned into forced triples. “As we get spaces we’ve been moving students out,” she said. Residence life hopes to have all students moved out of the forced triples by the end of the semester.

Because there are more women than men this semester, there are no male triples and the extra students are concentrated in residence halls Queen Anne, Prince George and Caroline. The presence of extra students in the residence halls hasn’t caused an increase in problems.

“We have probably about the same amount of roommate conflicts,” said Smolinsky. Although on the BASE surveys many students reported that they would like to see the spaces currently used as quads opened up for study space instead, “A lot of times students don’t want to move out of quads,” she said. Once roommate relationships are established, many students prefer to remain with their friends.

And there are some perks to living with a few extra people. “Forced triples get $40 per week on their account,” said Smolinsky, and the triples and quads in Queen Anne get free air conditioning.

According to first-years Nava Behnam, Julie Walker and Emmie Burns, living in a triple has its benefits.

“I was worried [about living in a triple] because I was already worried about having a roommate,” said Behnam, but she said that things have worked out well. Since the girls aren’t always in the room at the same time, “Everyone could have their time alone. I feel like we all respect each others’ space.”

And, all three girls say that living in a triple has helped their social lives. “We always have someone to go to dinner with,” said Walker.

“I think it’s helped us,” said Burns. “It’s allowed us to make more friends.” Each of the girls introduces the people they meet through their different activities to each other.

First-year Carly Harmon, who also lives in a triple, said that although the living situation can sometimes get crowded, she likes both her roommates. If she were given the option of moving into another room, she said, she would choose to stay. “If I hadn’t gotten to know my roommates,” she said, “I probably would have picked [living in a] double.”

According to several students, overcrowding sounds like more of a problem than it actually is.

“In any given hall [there are] only two extra people,” said sophomore Julie Frank.

“We’re really not horrible over capacity,” said junior Terri Matthews, who lives in Queen Anne. “I really haven’t noticed that much of a difference.”

Students Go against the Flow to Take Back the Tap

Each bottle in the water bottle curtain cost between $0.12 and $5.00. (Photo by Dave Chase)
Each bottle in the water bottle curtain cost between $0.12 and $5.00. (Photo by Dave Chase)

This semester, the students of St. Mary’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) are running the “Take Back the Tap” campaign in order to raise awareness about the problems associated with bottled water. The campaign goal is to eventually remove bottled water from the College campus store, the Daily Grind, and the Green Bean.

To kick off the campaign, SEAC hosted a screening of Flow on Oct. 14 in Cole Cinema as part of the National Day of Action. “Flow,” directed by Irena Salina, is a documentary that seeks to determine whether anyone ought to own water. “Flow” explores the “World Water Crisis” and, according to the movie’s Web site, “builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.”

In the days following the screening, SEAC members tabled in the campus center, asking students to sign a petition to get the Daily Grind to stop selling bottled water. With a “water bottle curtain” made of 136 salvaged water bottles (some pulled from recycling bins) hanging behind them, SEAC members spouted facts about bottled water to students heading to and from the Great Room. Coupons for 20 percent of reusable water bottles from the campus store were available for those who signed the petition.

SEAC also placed flyers across campus in many of the residence halls announcing the campaign. The flyers contained facts on bottled water and pointed out that although it may be more convenient to grab a bottle, the negative impacts of bottled water include taking water from communities that depend on it, polluting the environment during the production of plastic, contributing to global warming by transporting bottled water over great distances, and irresponsibly disposing of billions of empty bottles.

Junior Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, a member of SEAC, was in charge of publicity art work for the campaign, including making the water bottle curtain. He said, “On average, bottled water is 800-5,000 times more expensive than tap water.”

Working on the campaign has affected the way in which Ruthenberg-Marshall views water usage, he says.

“I haven’t been using bottled water for well over a year, but this makes me even less inclined to use it,” he said. “More importantly, it has raised my awareness of water issues worldwide and the level of importance they should have on the environmental stage.”

Senior Bethany Wetherill, SEAC Co-president, said that getting bottled water off campus has been discussed since she arrived at the College three years ago. Over the summer, she interned at Food & Water Watch (F&WW), a national non-profit consumer advocacy group, and the group behind the national Take Back the Tap campaign. She is currently working as a liaison between F&WW and the College so that SEAC can use F&WW’s knowledge and resource base for the College campaign.

“Basically, we’d like to see a drastic reduction in the amount of bottled water on campus,” she said, “ideally meaning that the school stops selling bottled water; the students, faculty, and staff stop buying bottled water; [and] people are more informed about their water, where it comes from, what’s in it, and what they can do to support clean tap water for their community and others.”

Interested students can attend SEAC meetings every Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Goodpaster 117.

Letter Raises Concerns About Salary Disparities Between College Employees

salaryincrease_graphWith the College undergoing the process of hiring a new President and a Vice President for Development, Department Chairs and Cross-Disciplinary Area Coordinators have reached out to the Board of Trustees in a letter regarding recent trends in executive pay at the College.

In the letter, the signatories suggest an imbalance between top administrators and other employees. The letter includes a graph that details the salary increases of various College employees. It clearly shows that the President and Cabinet member positions have outpaced average faculty salaries, inflation and student tuition. The Chairs and Coordinators find this trend “unsustainable [and] unfair to our State and community.”

The letter acknowledges the 56 percent increase in wages for the lowest paid staff members in the last few years. They argue that the increase, part of the living wage campaign, was supported by the College community at various levels and was approved through the College’s Strategic Plan. The 69.6 percent increase in administrative salaries, however, was not included in the strategic planning process.

Salaries at the College are set based on the median of the College’s Peer Institutions—liberal arts four-year institutions that are primarily undergraduate residential colleges. They problem with that, according to David Kung, Chair of the Math Department, is two-thirds of our peer schools are private. “I hope that a different benchmark is found that takes into account external factors and also internal factors of equity and fairness within our community,” said Kung.

The signatories argue that the growing disparity between administrative salaries and the rest of College employee salaries leads to low morale, which “has the potential to erode employees’ commitment to the College.”

“When people on campus feel as if they are not being fairly treated, they’re more likely to be talking about that than discussing important issues, such as what can be improved for students,” said Kung. “The things we could be doing instead of feeling under appreciated and complaining about that could really improve education.”

Discrepancies in salaries also undermine good recruitment and independence of faculty. According to Kung, for example, the Math Department offered someone a position but they declined because other institutions were offering higher salaries. “It’s hard to compete,” he said.

Another issue is support for research and professional development. For example, faculty members are expected to attend academic conferences and professional meetings. While the amount of the annual travel grant to attend them has remained the same over the past 10 years, conference costs have doubled. According to Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Bjorn Krondorfer, it would take about $70,000 to add $500 to the travel allowance for each full time faculty member. “Now compare this number, from which many of us would benefit, to the increase of salaries of the four top administrators,” he said. “It is just one example of many other worthwhile and important incentives to the benefit of larger groups of people.”

The Board responded with a letter to Robert Paul, Senate Faculty President, confirming receipt of the letter and notifying the faculty that the Finance, Investment and Audit Committee has been tasked with a fact finding mission regarding compensation practices. The results will be reported before the December 2009 quarterly board meeting.

“The fact that the Board of Trustees will now undertake their own fact finding on these issues is a needed and welcome gesture,” said Krondorfer. “More transparency on the college’s policy of financial compensation would be appreciated.”

Krondorfer suggested that board and members representing different groups of our campus community meet after gathering the relevant data and discuss reasonable salary structure and expectations.

Other Chairs and Coordinators have expressed interest in dialogue the results might bring. “Like my fellow co-signers, I look forward to hearing the results of the board’s evaluation. Indeed, the board may bring other factors to the discussion that both broaden and deepen the conversation,” said Julie King, Coordinator of Museum Studies. “It seems to me such dialogue is healthy and serves everyone.”

Keep Your Fingers on the Steering Wheel: Maryland Enacts Texting While Driving Ban

The State of Maryland is ordering drivers to put down their PDAs; as of October 1st the State enacted a ban on texting while driving. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)
The State of Maryland is ordering drivers to put down their PDAs; as of October 1st the State enacted a ban on texting while driving. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)

On Oct. 1, a ban on texting while driving went into effect in the state of Maryland. The Maryland State Senate passed the bill banning texting in March 2009.

The law states that a police officer is able to pull over anyone whom they catch sending a text message, and that anyone guilty of breaking that law will be subject to a $500 fine. Maryland is not the first state to pass a bill banning texting while driving, in fact, Virginia has recently passed a similar bill. Though Maryland has passed a law banning texting while driving it is still legal to talk on the phone while driving, something that has already been banned in several states.

While the new law does ban text messaging, there are certain loopholes that allow texting while driving without breaking the law. It is okay to text to contact emergency services, or to use your phone as a GPS device. For those under 18, it is illegal to use a phone while driving at all unless it is to contact 911 for an emergency.

Students Plant ‘Smoking Hot Sycamores’ and Other Trees around Campus Paths

Students braved the cold and the rain to plant trees like this one along campus paths to create ecologically sound wildlife buffers. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)
Students braved the cold and the rain to plant trees like this one along campus paths to create ecologically sound wildlife buffers. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)

If there’s one thing that can be said of St. Mary’s students, it’s that we don’t lack concern for the environment.  While the rest of the community was huddled inside early Saturday morning avoiding the cold, rainy weather, about 15 students met at the Campus Center to take action and support the environment by getting their hands dirty planting trees.

The project of planting 250 native trees around campus was sponsored by EcoHouse, the Sustainability Committee, the Grounds Crew, the Critical Area Commission, and the Office of Planning and Facilities.  The planting was part of the College’s Buffer Management Strategy, which specifically works to make the College have ecologically sound buffers while also preserving important campus viewsheds.

Emily Saari, a sophomore EcoHouse member, helped bring the project into fruition when she proposed the idea to Dan Branigan, the Director of Design and Construction on campus.

“I suggested it as a way for EcoHousers to get credit for a community outreach project, and he was very open to the idea,” said Saari. “It’s really good to see it getting off the ground.”

The students helped plant trees in three locations across campus: below the grassy hill across from the campus center, around the pine forest beside Queen Anne, and in the small field beside the path to Dorchester.  Upon arrival, students were given shovels, potted saplings, and directions on how to properly plant the American sycamores, dogwoods, and other types of native trees.  In the end, the rainy weather turned out to be a blessing in disguise since it made the ground soft for digging, and the better-than-expected student turnout allowed the project to be completed an hour earlier than planned.

Senior Liahna Gonda-King helped plant five trees with Senior Cynthia Lawson for the project.  She said, “It’s really nice that our campus is actively trying to sustain the environment instead of just talking about it.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by all in attendance, eager to improve the campus’s environmental health.  Senior biology major Stacey Meyer said of the project: “They’ve been doing so much construction on campus lately, it’s nice to see some greening making up for it.”

Knowledge of the tree-planting project was spread by Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall, who rallied support for the initiative with his all-student emails.  In them, he stressed the importance of greening the campus.

“These trees will help shore up our shorelines, improve our storm water management, create more habitats for native organisms and make our campus even more beautiful than it already is,” his email said. “Think of how cool it will be when you come back 20 years from now and say to your kids/spouse/in-laws, ‘I planted that smoking hot sycamore right there, and that radical eastern redbud over yonder.’”

Regarding his personal view of the project, Hall said, “I was excited to say the least, and anxious to help get more people involved and get the plants in the ground!”

Hall said that the native trees that were planted have evolved in the campus ecosystems, and therefore use the water and nutrient availability of the area optimally and are resistant to natural diseases and pests. According to Hall, they will provide the best habitat for other organisms and should do very well. He said that naturally there will be some “thinning” as the trees establish themselves, but “we took that into account when planting them.”

Maile On Burns: “Cure Occasionally, Relieve Often, Console Always”

Dr. Robert Maile discusses the evolution of the treatment of burn injuries. (Photo by Matt Molek)
Dr. Robert Maile discusses the evolution of the treatment of burn injuries. (Photo by Matt Molek)

Dr. Robert Maile’s presentation at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Colloquium Wednesday, titled, “The Challenges of Burn Injury,” focused on the impact of trauma and burn-related emergencies on the individual and society, and the state of current research in the field of burn immunology.

Maile, a researcher in the surgery department of the Jaycee Burn Center, University of North Carolina, began the seminar with the history behind burn immunology. He focused on the first written accounts of burn treatment, which dated as far in history as 1500 BCE, and the works of battlefield-trained surgeons like Ambroise Paré who used a basic understanding of burns to better treat wounded soldiers.

From its history, Maile went on to discuss the numbers behind trauma and burn injury, concerning not only the death toll but also the economics behind medical and hospital costs.

“[Burn injury] is a rare mechanism of injury,” said Maile. “But, it often involves the longest hospital stay.”

Statistically, more burn injuries occur in the mid-twenties, early-thirties age group, and more so among men than women. The injuries occur most often in the home, are not work-related, and are caused by a direct fire or scalding. The chances of receiving a significant burn are 1 in 50, while the chances of dying from that burn are 1 in 500.

Maile also elaborated on the physical aspects of a typical burn, not only how it affects the skin but, most importantly, how it affects the rest of the body and its dysfunctional immune response.

“[Burn injuries] are a profound multi-system problem,” Maile explained, and despite the extent of some injuries, “burn patients tend to die of pneumonia” due to the anti-inflammatory response of the body to counteract an initial pro-inflammatory response.

Skin grafts from the burn victim, called autografts, are more commonly used than allografts (skin grafts from another person) to cover the wound and prevent infection, usually to prevent the immune rejection of foreign tissue that persists long after the body is immunologically compromised. Maile added that synthetic grafts can also be used to establish a barrier between the wound and the environment.

“Autografts or synthetic grafts are your best options,” Maile said.

The Jaycee Burn Center is studying many mechanisms behind burn injury and the body’s immune response. While many burn centers are shutting down due to the high upkeep costs of treating burn victims, Jaycee is still combining patient care with immunological research to better aid burn patients.

Maile ended the presentation with a discussion of projects being researched at the Jaycee Burn Center, ranging from a study of inflammatory cytokines to an investigation behind the reactivation of latent viruses that could accompany the body’s immune response to burn injury.

“Sometimes, it sounded like he was trying to sell his program, but it was interesting to hear about the research he was doing,” said Jesse Burke, a sophomore who attended the lecture.

Dr. Maile concluded his presentation with a restatement of the medical humanities, fitting for a presentation on a medical unit focused on burn injury: “cure occasionally, relieve often, and console always.”

The NS&M colloquium series is held weekly, and offered to a general audience. The next seminar is titled “Field Notes on a Catastrophe,” a global warming presentation based on the book written by The New Yorker magazine journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. Kolbert will be presenting the seminar next Wednesday.

To Catch a Predator: Microbiology Style

Jon Ford received a microbiology fellowship, which provides a $4000 student stipend, a two-year membership to ASM and travel money to the ASM General Meeting. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)
Jon Ford received a microbiology fellowship, which provides a $4000 student stipend, a two-year membership to ASM and travel money to the ASM General Meeting. (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)

Senior Jon Ford was awarded the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Undergraduate Research Fellowship for his work on finding bacterial spore predators.

This fellowship, according to the ASM website, is awarded to “highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers (Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D) in microbiology.” It is only awarded to 33 student-mentor pairs nationwide.

In order to receive the fellowship, the student had to be involved in a research project and have a member of the ASM working at their home institution.

With the assistance of Dr. Jeffery Byrd (Ford’s mentor), Ford did research over the summer after being awarded the fellowship which provided up to $4000 as a student stipend, a 2 year membership in the ASM, and travel money so the student can present research results at the 2011 ASM General Meeting.

Ford said he worked 30 to 40 hours a week in Byrd’s lab. This research also supplemented Ford’s SMP.

The microbiology student  said that when people ask the title of his work he tells them it’s “’To Catch a Predator’ and the fellowship was awarded by Dateline NBC.”

The research, actually entitled “Bacterial Spore Degradation: Isolation and Characterization of Bacterial Spore Predators,” focused on finding an organism that could break down the thick coat of spores, such as anthrax.

He was able to identify three potential spore predators, with which he hopes further research can be performed.

Although the experiment was Byrd’s idea, Ford carried out most of the research himself, said Ford.

He was also very thankful for Byrd’s assistance, describing him as “a walking, talking microbiological encyclopedia and an all around outstanding mentor.”

In addition to Byrd, Ford thanked Dr. Samantha Elliot, Sarah Grady, and Victor Talisa.

Ford will be graduating soon and hopes to be in pharmacy school next year, continuing his studies in microbiology.