Undergraduate Research

As a Biology degree student at Lewis, you will gain practical research by setting up experiments, testing hypotheses, collecting data, reporting results and forming conclusions from their analyses. Through these opportunities, you will gain valuable experience in both the design and execution of "formal" research projects, and in forming and testing unique ideas.

Many of our research projects have been funded by the Colonel Stephen S. and Lyla Doherty Center for Aviation and Health Research (DCAHR)

Current Projects

Coliform Bacteria in Recreational Areas - Dr. Jerry Kavouras (funded by The Doherty Center).

Recreational activities, such as fishing and boating, where individuals are exposed to untreated water in natural habitats can be potentially dangerous.
It is usual for fecal matter to be suspended in the water column of lakes and rivers.Animal feces contain bacteria that can be human pathogens. Therefore, people participating in these activities may unintentionally expose themselves to infectious agents. Water quality is routinely determined by the detection of coliform bacteria. The presence of these organisms indicates that fecal contamination has occurred, which suggests that infectious agents are in the body of water.

The purpose of the study is to sample recreational areas in Cook and Will Counties for the presence of coliform bacteria. The testable hypothesis is people who engage in leisure activities at these sites are consistently exposed to pathogens at dangerous levels throughout the year. Coliforms will be detected in the samples using water quality tests utilized by the Illinois EPA. Bacteria will be identified in positive samples using standard molecular biology techniques in order to determine the species, and possibly bacterial strains, inhabiting these waters.

The Staphylococcus aureus Monitoring Project - Dr. James Rago (funded by The Doherty Center).

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is quite easily one of the most prevalent bacterial pathogens in the country, both nosocomially, and in the general population. Certain strains of this bacterium have the ability to cause many life-threatening diseases, such as septicemia, food poisoning, many different toxinoses, and many types of serious skin infections. Many of these diseases are commonly referred to as "staph infections" by many in the medical community, and unfortunately, can be quite difficult to treat.

It is also well documented that S. aureus is one of the most rapidly evolving bacterial pathogens when it comes to acquiring resistance to commonly used antibiotics. Studies have shown that there are several clinically relevant strains of S. aureus (such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and the newly emerging VRSA, which is a variant strain that also has resistance to vancomycin) that are capable of growing in the presence of many commonly-used antibiotics. To an astute student of the biological sciences, it should come as no major surprise that antibiotic misuse (especially in clinical settings) has played a major role in contributing to the emergence of these multi-drug resistant strains of S. aureus.

The overall goal of this project is to acquire strains of S. aureus from various commonly-used environments in the community for the purpose generating a database of the antibiotic resistance profiles (a.k.a. "antibiograms") and genetic profiles of selected strains using a number of proven techniques. Long term goals of this project are to establish a database of clinically relevant strains of S. aureus in the Lewis University area, and to compare data obtained over several years' worth of monitoring that may indicate the emergence of new and/or more virulent strains of S. aureus in the community.

Student Publications/Presentations

Erin Blazina, Class of 2012; Aleksander Pecherek, Class of 2012; Elizabeth Figus, Class of 2012; Elizabeth Floren, Class of 2012
Title: "Biofilm Development: Many Characters, Different Plots for Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli"
104th Annual Meeting of the Illinois State Academy of Science
Knox College, Galesburg, IL
March 2012
Project funded by the Doherty Center

Rago, J.V., K. Buhs, V. Makarovaite, E. Patel, M. Pomeroy, C. Yasmine
Title: "Detection and Analysis of Staphylococcus aureus Isolates Found in Ambulances in the Chicago Metropolitan Area."
American Journal of Infection Control. 40: 201-205.
2012

Yasmine, C. and J.V. Rago
Title: "Analysis of Strains of Staphylococcus aureus Found in Chicagoland ALS Ambulances."
111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
New Orleans, LA
May 2011

Thomas Lynch, Class of 2011; Erin Blazina, Class of 2012; Corey Knickerbocker, Class of 2011
Title: "Temperature plays a significant role in the arrangement of cells within E. coli and S. aureus biofilms"
111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology
New Orleans, LA
May 2011
Project funded by the Doherty Center

Makarovaite, V. and J.V. Rago
Title: "Involving Undergraduate Students in Community-Based Scientific Research. CUR's "Creating a Culture of Research on Campus."
Williamsburg, VA
October 2010

Thomas Lynch, Class of 2011; Thomas Soderquist, Class of 2010; Nina Schubert, Class of 2010; Corey Knickerbocker, Class of 2011; Devon McCord, Class of 2011
Title: "Coliform bacteria at unmonitored recreational sites"
110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology
San Diego, CA
May 2010
Project funded by the Doherty Center

Yasmine, C. and J.V. Rago
Title: "Analysis of Strains of Staphylococcus aureus Found in Chicagoland ALS Ambulances."
ACCA Student Symposium.
Lewis University, Romeoville, IL
April 2010

Amy Dombrowski, Class of 2009
Title: "Seasonal trends in the reattachment of the quagga mussel, Dreissena bugensis, to filmed surfaces"
109th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology
Philadelphia, PA
May 17-21, 2009

Melissa Pomeroy, Class of 2010
Title: "An epidemiologic analysis of the antibiograms of strains of Staphylococcus aureus found on gas pump handles."
42nd ACCA Student Symposium
Romeoville, IL
April 4, 2009
Project funded by the Doherty Center

Danielle Boyd, Class of 2009
Title:"The Analysis of the distribution of antibiotic resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus"*
The 2009 North Central - 1 Convention of the Biologoical Sciences Honor Society
Romeoville, IL
March 28, 2009
Special Note: Danielle was awarded 3rd place in her division at this conference

Pamela Wilcher, Class of 2008
Title:"The effects of temperature on the production of soluble proteins and
carbohydrates from Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli biofilms"
*
108th General Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology
Boston, MA
June 1-5, 2008

Krystal Ryan, Class of 2008
Title:"Effect of quagga mussels(Dreissena bugensis)as a fertilizer for native
Illinois grasses"

41st ACCA Student Symposium
Romeoville, IL
April 12, 2008

Student Talk

  • Pamela Wilcher

    "My undergraduate research project really helped me become committed to working in a laboratory as a career."

  • Melissa Pomeroy

    "Instead of reading lab instructions from a manual, the plans come from our own minds. I feel like a real scientist. I think it's fantastic that even as an undergraduate, I can make some sort of scientific contribution to the world right now."

  • Danielle Boyd

    "It is rewarding to be able to take the skills and knowledge I learned in class and lab, and apply them toward a funded project."