SPRINGFIELD – Ryan Roy, a graduate student in the Biology Department at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has received a Grants-In-Aid of Research Award from Sigma Xi, the prestigious scientific research society.
This grant program is highly competitive; only about 20 percent of applicants receive any level of funding.
Roy's award will allow her to embark on a novel investigation in microbiology involving the simulation of natural chemical conditions (specifically oxidation-reduction, or "redox") in the laboratory to assess parts of the microbial community that may be enriched or "favored" under different conditions.
Her adviser at UIS is Dr. Mike Lemke, associate professor of Biology and director of the Emiquon Field Station. Roy and Lemke worked with chemists – including Dr. Keenan Dungey from UIS – physicists, and other microbiologists – including Dr. Chris McNamara from Harvard – to narrow down her thesis question and work out an appropriate methodology.
Said Lemke, "The rationale for Ryan's work is based on the fact that, while many conditions, often simulating gradients in the natural environment, have been used to culture bacteria, these cultured bacteria seldom exceed one percent of the environmental assemblage. However, culturing remains important to microbiology for a number of reasons."
Lemke said that oxidation-reduction is one culturing factor that has not been extensively investigated. "Based on the outcome of Ryan's research, redox may become another significant tool to enhance bacterial culturability, thus increasing the culturability of environmental samples. This would mean that more studies could follow on the isolation of novel cultured bacteria to name bacterial species and explain bacterial function within their environments."
Lemke noted that Roy's receipt of this grant is even more impressive given that she is a single mother juggling class work, a teaching assistantship, research, and raising a 5-year-old.
Lemke currently mentors four undergraduate and five graduate students in UIS' Microbial Ecology Laboratory. In a separate letter, Sigma Xi applauded his commitment and dedication and cited him as a great model in encouraging Roy and other students as they develop into the science and engineering researchers of the future.
Sigma Xi is a non-profit membership society of approximately 75,000 scientists and engineers, including almost 200 Nobel Laureates, elected because of their research achievements or potential. The society's Grants-in-Aid of Research program has been providing undergraduate and graduate students with valuable educational experiences for more than 80 years. By encouraging close working relationships between students and faculty, the program promotes scientific excellence and achievement through hands-on learning. The grants are partially funded by the National Academy of Sciences.