This year’s meeting will bring together many relevant and diverse aspects of microbiology including nanotechnology, infectious diseases, and microbes in extinction events. Over 13,000 people will attend the conference and more than 2,000 projects will be presented. Webb will present her research project dealing with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia, on May 26, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the San Diego Convention Center.
A Rhizobuim bacterium converts nitrogen in the soil into a form that can be used by plants. For her research Webb has taken soil samples from nearby crop fields and conducts research on Rhizobium bacteria and how they work to fix nitrogen in the soil.
“Farmers add Nitrogen to fields using chemical fertilizers which can have harmful effects on the environment as well as consumers,” said Webb. “I hope my research will take steps toward a safer way to ensure good crop yields.”
Webb is a student member of the American Society of Microbiology community and was encouraged to enter her research project through working with Dr. Indiren Pillay, associate professor of biology and chairperson of the Natural and Mathematical Sciences Division at C-SC.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for Jessica to present her research at an international scientific conference of this stature,” said Pillay. “It is well deserved since she has worked hard to design this series of experiments with the help of Dr. Lauren Schellenberger (C-SC assistant professor of biology) and myself. Plus she has carried them out while continuing to maintain high grades and work as a tutor and teaching assistant. She has shown her maturity in being able to work independently yet still accept advice and criticism from her professors.”
“For me, this means a lot of exposure to many new research ideas and a great opportunity to present my research,” said Webb. “It is also a great opportunity to see and be exposed to the research being done all around the country.”
Webb is also the teaching assistant for the Genomics Research Initiative course at C-SC. This course was developed at C-SC when the college was awarded membership into the Howard Hughes Medical Institute national research initiative in research and education that revolves around a research course in genomics for students. C-SC is one of only two colleges’ in the state of Missouri to be a part of this initiative. As the teaching assistant for the course Webb traveled to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Farm in Ashburn, Va., for lab training.
“Being offered a position as a teaching assistant for the Genomics class is a rare opportunity for an undergraduate,” said Webb. “Traveling to the research farm was an amazing experience. I was one of few undergraduates offered this position; most of the other teaching assistants were graduate students.”
Webb embraced the opportunity to interact with as many graduate students as possible during her time at the research farm.
“This was a rare experience not offered at many undergraduate institutions,” she added. “By being a part of this at C-SC, I was able to learn lab techniques I will need for graduate school which I may not have gotten anywhere else.”
“Jessica has blossomed as a scientist in the past two years. Much of that is due to her experience as a teaching assistant for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Genome Project,” added Pillay. “This experience has given her the confidence to recognize her own talents and to exploit them.”
One requirement for a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at C-SC is to propose, conduct, and present an independent senior research experiment. Webb feels that her time at C-SC and her experience in assisting with the genomics project has successfully prepared her for her presentation at the microbiology general meeting.
“This process allowed me to gain not only research skills, but skills in presenting to a group of fellow scientists and this is exactly what I will be doing at the American Society of Microbiology Meeting,” said Webb.
In the Fall of 2010, Webb will be attending the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, La., were she will work toward her doctorate degree specializing in molecular and tumor virology.
“Jessica is going to be a successful doctoral student at LSU, and I will be proud to call her a colleague someday. That is a far cry from the shy teenager I remember interviewing at Pillars Day four years ago,” said Pillay.
Photo 1: Jessica Webb, senior biology major from Lewistown, Ill., shows off the soybean samples she will be working with for her research project dealing with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia.
Photo 2: Jessica Webb, senior biology major from Lewistown, Ill., mixes up the substance in which she grows the plants in for her research project dealing with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia.
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