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Erin Tiwold '16

"Manipulating Signal Hydrophobicity to Alter Quorum Sensing in Streptococcus Pneumoniae"

Major/Minor: Biochemistry and Mathematics minor
Hometown: Northampton
Project Advisor(s): Dr. Michael Bertucci 

Briefly describe your project.

My research concludes the outcome of a bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is a bacteria that utilizes a process known as quorum sensing to communicate with each other to coordinate group gene expression. During quorum sensing, bacteria produce a signaling molecule that is released outside the organism. As the density of bacteria increases so does the amount of signaling molecules. At a certain concentration, these molecules allow the initiation of group gene expression that can result in host infection.

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

My professor, Dr. Bertucci, and Dr. Tal-Gan created this research collaboration with Moravian College and the University of Nevada, Reno.

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

Working with a faculty member has been the best experience. Not only have I gained so much insight from my mentor but have grown so much as a student in the sciences. Dr. Bertucci was there every step of the way but also allowed me to gain experience by working on the project independently when I was confident in my work.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

My biggest obstacle in my research was synthesizing seven 17 amino acid peptides and purifying them in a ten-week time frame. It taught me a lot about planning out my days and multitasking when possible.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience is to work hard, absorb as much as you can from your mentor, and be confident in your skills.

What was the result of your project?

After testing the library of peptides in S. pneumoniae cultures, I discovered my peptides enhanced quorum sensing at a nano-molar concentration.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, where would you like to see it go?

After SOAR, Dr. Bertucci and I traveled to our collaborator, Dr. Yftah Tal-Gan at the University of Nevada, Reno to finish testing the peptides I synthesized in S. pneumonia cultures.

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity?

This opportunity allowed me to explore a topic of interest and I am grateful for being awarded this experience. Students should take advantage of SOAR because as a science major SOAR is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet in research and build a mentorship with a faculty member.