Fighting Antibiotic Resistance

Beloit faculty and students are contributing to much needed research aimed at fighting antibiotic resistance.

When it comes to developing new antibiotics, all hands are needed on deck,” says Beloit College chemist Kristin Labby. As context, antibiotic resistance is rapidly increasing worldwide at the same time antibiotics are losing effectiveness. This has the makings of a global health crisis.

That’s why Prof. Labby recruited biologist Kristina Blanke to participate in a recent Tiny Earth training, so that both can enlist students in Tiny Earth research during the spring 2023 semester. Students in their respective chemistry and biology courses will also come together to share their findings and learn from each other.

The Tiny Earth project aims at fighting a looming health crisis with the aid of student-sourced antibiotic discovery.

“This will be an exciting semester for both the biology majors and non-majors enrolled in BIOL 208: Microbiology, as they will contribute to research aimed at better understanding the global healthcare crisis,” says Prof. Blanke. Students in the course will collect soil samples to search for bacterial isolates demonstrating antibiotic activity.

Meanwhile, students in Labby’s CHEM/BIOL 360: Microbes to Molecules: Antibiotic Discovery, will work with the over twenty promising isolates with antibiotic activity identified in Labby’s prior Tiny Earth courses. Their task? Determine the molecular structures responsible for that activity. Not only will they learn the necessary techniques to do so, but they’ll summarize their findings in a scientific poster and have the option of presenting the poster to an international community of scientists at the semiannual Tiny Earth Symposium.

No longer a newcomer to Tiny Earth, Labby helped facilitate the January 2023 training as an instructor, and is working to develop the Tiny Earth chemistry course curriculum. In fact, she will devote part of an upcoming sabbatical to doing so.

If both faculty members are passionate about the Tiny Earth project, they are also pleased by its contributions to their students’ learning.

“No matter how many of the students in our Tiny Earth courses become scientists,” Labby and Blanke agree, “all will be better informed about both science and a global challenge. Plus, they will have made good progress toward achieving the career readiness skills Beloit College has established for all of its students.”

By: Elizabeth Brewer
January 30, 2023

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