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.

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