Local Morehead students, prof published internationally

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MOREHEAD, Ky. (WTVQ) – Morehead State Professor of Biology Dr. Janelle Hare and a group of student researchers published articles in two academic journals in 2020, exploring gene damage in a drug-resistant pathogen.

Students involved in the research were Jordan Carrington, a 2019 biomedical science graduate from Somerset; Megan Peterson, a 2020 graduate with a Master of Science in Biology from Wallingford; and 2020 Craft Academy graduate Kevin Johnson from Rush.

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Their research involves the pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii, and its response to hybrid proteins. Articles were published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology and the Microbiology Society’s journal, Microbiology.

The article in Microbiology, co-authored by Hare and Peterson, identified that two proteins, not just one, cooperated to control the response to DNA damage that bacteria can make. This helps them stay alive after exposure to certain chemicals or radiation.

The article in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology was first-authored by MSU post-doctoral research associate, Dr. Deb Cook, who worked with Hare in mentoring Carrington and Johnson.

It tested whether the two proteins that cooperate to control the DNA damage response (UmuDAb and DdrR) directly touch each other to achieve this control. Hare and her team did not find evidence that they did so but found that each of the two proteins can bind to themselves in groups of two. This is common in proteins that bind to DNA to control its use.

The work Hare, Cook, and their students did sheds light on how the DNA damage response system in bacteria can result in bacteria gaining resistance to antibiotics. Not only does the research have important medical ramifications, but it also helps students gain valuable skills.

“It teaches the students the importance of the scientific method and quality control,” Hare said. “It also gives them a real-world view of how the information they learn in the classroom each day is gained—through experimentation.”

Hare added she and her students are proud of their contributions to the scientific community.

“We feel proud of our work, because not all manuscripts are accepted for publication. It is a lot of work and it can be hard to move through the peer-review process. But sharing our work with the larger scientific community is the final goal of any research project, so it feels good to have completed that step,” she said. “I also hope that their experience boosts their confidence on a personal and future professional level, to know that what they do is important and relevant.”