May 16, 2016
Four environmental science students at Johnson State College presented their research to members of Congress, congressional staff and federal agency representatives in April on Capitol Hill.
The four – freshman Shavonna Bent of Randolph, sophomore Heather Murphy of Morgan, and juniors Shayna Bennett of Belvidere and Katie Bora of Johnson — were chosen by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) to participate in the 20th annual “Posters on the Hill” event April 19-20. They presented their research at the highly selective gathering in Washington, D.C., accompanied by their supervising professor, Dr. Elizabeth Dolci, and met with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) while there.
Their winning submission, titled “Bacterial Response to Human-Induced Stress at the Vermont Asbestos Group Mine,” is a culmination of data on heavy metal resistance, antibiotic resistance, and antibiotic production in bacteria found at the site of a former asbestos mine in Lowell and Eden, Vt. Shayna Bennett, who is pursuing a double major in math and environmental science, is the paper’s lead author.
The students’ research, started in June 2010 with the support of the Vermont Genetics Network, focuses on microorganisms living in a contaminated pond at the defunct Vermont Asbestos Group (VAG) mine. The data they are gathering can help guide policies related to the maintenance of asbestos-contaminated sites and has the potential to change scientific thinking about a range of human health topics as well, such as how to help the body fight off infection.
Johnson State was one of only 60 colleges nationwide chosen by CUR from more than 350 applications to present at the 2016 Posters on the Hill showcase. Only one other Vermont college – Middlebury — was chosen as well. The annual event affords an elite group of students the opportunity to share their undergraduate research with lawmakers, not only demonstrating how federal programs and dollars impact students and faculty, but educating them about the value of undergraduate research.
Faculty-mentored student research takes place across the curriculum at Johnson State College. It is one of many high-impact practices at the liberal arts college that take students into the laboratory, the field and the community through internships, research, study away, civic engagement and other career-building opportunities.
Pictured: Meeting Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, while in Washington, D.C., are, from left, JSC students Katie Bora, Shayna Bennett, Marcelle and Shavonna Bent and Heather Murphy, with their supervising professor, Dr. Elizabeth Dolci. (photo courtesy Office of Senator Patrick Leahy)