Felicia Davenport's ELT Practicum Review

In my final semester of College Park Scholars Earth Life and Time Program, I was given the esteemed opportunity to intern at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Service, alongside Senior Microbiologist Dr.David Kuykendall.My project entailed comparative genomics of two bacteria: Sinorhizobium Meliloti and Liberibacter Asiaticus. Liberibacter is a plant pathogen, which causes citrus greening disease in citrus plants. This disease is detrimental to these plants and burdens the industry by damaging fruit that would otherwise be sold. This disease currently has no cure. As such, my site supervisor (in addition to other scientists) are working to learn more about this organism via studying the genome of this microbe in comparison to known treatable plant pathogens that are related to Liberibacter asiaticus. I found my site and site supervisor via an add on The College of Chemical and Life Science's LifeLink listserv. I then emailed Dr. Kuykendall with my resume and my expressed interest. After an extensive interview process, I was hired on as a student intern in his laboratory. At this site, I did mostly bioinformatics comparisons of bacterial genomes. This means that I did chromosome walking via Excel. I looked at spreadsheets with two genomes side by side and looked for regions of synteny (3 or more same genes in the same order in both bacteria). By identifying these regions of micrsynteny, the Microbiologists at my site can better understand the similarities and differences between the bacteria that we were comparing and in turn better infer how to treat the pathogen. Also, I did DNA analysis tests including gel electrophoresis and PCR (which is a test used to amplify a particular part of the genome). This project exposed me to aspects of microbiology that I could not gain in the laboratory at the University of Maryland. I was exposed to true experimental biology that had a direct impact on an issue that is affecting the world I live in. I gained alot of technical, hands on experience in relation to bacterial microbiology. I learned alot about the genomes of two bacteria that I had never been exposed to aswell. In addition to this, my experience at my internship site has also impacted me beyond science. This project gave me an appreciation of how the USDA truly helps to solve agricultural concerns and problems affecting our daily food supply. Furthermore, this experience has helped to confirm my plans academically. It has exposed me to the career path that I plan to follow and assured me that the field of Microbial Genetics is something that I can do for the rest of my life. It has further inspired me to continue on in my path of the Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland and also to look into graduate programs that will help strengthen my research skills in this area. All in all, I am truly greatful for my scholars program and the opportunity I was given to pursue a project of this caliber. I enjoyed this semester and feel that the skills I gained in my two years of scholars are invaluable.

Last modified: 10 May 2010