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An Innovative Era: Microbiology Research at Wagner College


science research

Bonnie Bassler once said "Science is difficult and slow no matter who you are. The hours are long, and the glorious 'aha' days come only very infrequently. You have to keep believing that if you put in the hours, those days will indeed come!" In this second blog, we explores the world of microbiology research here at Wagner College.

Research In Microbiology:

Microbiology Research Students Presenting their Research at the 2015 Eastern College Science Conference.

Dr. Christopher Corbo, Assistant Professor of microbiology and Director of the microbiology masters program is a very busy professor on campus. You can always find him with his team of students investigating and researching in the laboratory. The team includes, Brandon Kocurek '16, Anthony Spano '17, Anthony Gonzalez '16 and Brandon Hart '17 (me). Together the team works to understand the bacterium, Listeria. Listeria is a gram-positive bacteria that is the common cause of food outbreaks. It has recently been in the news for its outbreak in ice cream and pasta salads. This organism is found in the environment in soil, water, and sewage. It is a serious pathogen that has the potential to cause spontaneous abortion in third trimester women. In can cause listeriosis which is fatal. We aim to understand the mode of pathogenesis. We observe the mechanism in which L. Monocytogenes works as well potential ways to limit outbreaks.


In order to understand the pathogenesis of Listeria we use Zebrafish because they mimic the human genome. Brandon11148606_10204243881242037_8690911494393267298_n Kocurek and Anthony Spano inject Listeria through the iris of zebrafish. This induces infection in the central nervous system (CNS) of the fish. Brandon uses advanced technologies such as immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy to confirm that Listeria does in fact cause infection. Anthony uses the gram stain reaction to see if Listeria infects the tissue. Like Brandon; Anthony has found the same result using different techniques. Brandon explained "This research is important in understand the intracellular mechanism of this organism". Anthony explained that "The use of gram stains allow you to see if the infection is present that way you can understand the other mechanisms at play." Future indications for study include immunology and the way in which the fish elicits an immune response. Together, this research will contribute to understanding the mechanism in which the organism causes spontaneous abortions and listeriosis infections.

Bacteriophage Isolation

Anthony Gonzalez looks for bacteriophage in the sewage samples using the Electron Microscope

Anthony Gonzalez and I focus on the isolation of bacteriophage. Bacteriophage are viruses that kill bacteria. "Our job is to go out and isolate these phage and use them to kill Listeria to control outbreaks," explained Anthony. Bacteriophage are so unique in that they are specific and natural. This year was the first time this project has ever been done, and an isolation protocol for this organism has been completely redesigned. We collected raw sewage and isolated bacteriophage that are specific to killing Listeria monocytogenes. In addition to the isolation of these phage, we collected images of the bacteriophage through the use of the electron microscope. Wagner College is so unique because we have this facility on campus."The EM facility is special at Wagner College. It provides students with advanced skills. Most students leave the microbiology program very proficient in advanced technologies," explained Dr. Corbo. I joined the research team my freshman year, and after observing I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The professors were always there for me and wanted you a part of their team. I wanted to look at alternative ways to treat Listeria other than antibiotic therapies. Future research includes food testing and the creation of vaccinations to prevent infection.


Other professors and students are doing research as well. Kathleen Bobbitt, associate professor of microbiology, works with her students to kill bacteria using natural extracts. Microbiology is unique! We love it! We love the things we cannot see; they are so relevant to our society today! The microbiology program is special at Wagner. It is a 5 year bachelor's/master's program. Students have gone on to PhD, medical and dental schools. Kathleen Bobbitt said, "Wagner is known! Most of the top microbiologists in the world came from this program, it's prestigious!"

Under the supervision of Dr. Kathleen Bobbitt, Meghan Morrissey, senior microbiology major wins an award for her outstanding presentation at ECSC 2015. Megan researched the effect of plant extracts on Serratia marcescens for medical purposes. Congratulations.
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Top-Anthony Spano: Bottom- Brandon Kocurek-Presenting their research at the 2015 ECSC conference.
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Top- Anthony Gonzalez and Brandon Hart: Bottom- Arielle Dorfman- Presenting their research at the 2015 ECSC conference.















Alexa Viniotis'16  presenting her immunological research she conducted at John Hopkins University Bloomberg Public Health School. Alexa was chosen to participate in this summer program through a joint partnership between Hopkins and Wagner. Alexa is a microbiology major from Seattle Washington with dreams of going to medical school.

Signing off,

Brandon M. Hart