Partners in Research
For a year now, senior Michelle Pomposello and assistant professor of biology Kara Mosovsky have been working together on research that examines methods of treating bacterial infections when the offending bacteria live inside the body’s cells where they cannot be reached by traditional antibiotics. Their work started last May with a SOAR (student opportunities for academic research) project and continued throughout the 2017-18 academic year with two successive independent studies.
Pomposello’s time in the laboratory dates back before her collaboration with Mosovsky to a 2016 SOAR project with Frances Irish, assistant professor of biology, in which they studied behavior in sand boas. “It was interesting,” says Pomposello, “but I realized it wasn’t the direction I wanted to take.” Next she worked with Michael Bertucci, assistant professor of chemistry, on his research into manipulating quorum sensing among bacteria as a strategy for treating disease. “That was closer but still not quite right,” Pomposello says. “Then I took microbiology with Dr. Mosovsky, and I loved it! I never wanted class to end. I even loved studying for exams. So I asked her if I could join in her research.”
Their partnership is a perfect match made in microbiology lab. They collaborate well, have similar ideas about how to proceed with research, share an exuberant passion for their subject, and both possess a powerful work ethic. “Dr. Mosovsky is super supportive and knowledgeable but doesn’t just give you the answer to a problem,” says Pomposello. “She gets you to think about it, and once you’ve figured it out, she gives you the freedom to run with it and learn and develop things on your own.”
“I feel like I’m talking with someone who’s already in grad school about what we should do, what’s working and what’s not working,” says Mosovsky. “Michelle is an incredibly hard worker and 100 percent reliable. By the time I email her to do something, she’s already done it. And it’s been nice to get to know her as a person outside of research as well.”
Pomposello’s work with Mosovsky earned her an honorable mention for her presentation at the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting in March. And Pomposello and Mosovsky are co-authoring a paper on their findings, which they plan to submit to the peer-reviewed scientific journal Plos One this summer for publication.
Are such successful student-faculty relationships special to Moravian College? “When I talk with my friends about the research they’re doing at their schools, I definitely feel that my experience is superior,” says Pomposello. “Moravian fosters this kind of relationship, but it wouldn’t happen without the kind of faculty that the college hires. The professors here are passionate, knowledgeable, and genuinely caring.”
“I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work so closely and spend so much time one-on-one with students if it weren’t for the culture here of valuing that interaction and giving me time and freedom to pursue what I want with students,” says Mosovsky. “What we’ve done—SOAR, independent studies—feels valued and makes me want to do more.”