Specifically this work was great as the Gazette Shelby Furman and Hailey Kintz team up through the bottom of a vivid plastic plate full of wells of bacteria.
The tiny visible growth inside is a strain of staphylococcus aureus — yes, that staph — which occasionally
sends it’s members or affected who encounter it directly or indirectly running to the sink to scrub their hands. But, for Kintz ’17 and Furman ’16, the growth is a welcome and cleae sight.
“Hey!” exclaims Hailey. “Looks like we’ve got some good results!”(wow).The bacteria aren’t present in all the wells— that’s the good news. Approximately, Furman and Kintz spent a semester in the laboratory designing and making bacteria-combating compounds they are now testing on the staph. Most if not all of the compounds took upwards of a half-dozen chemical reactions to produce—and some have never before been tested for efficacy.
The pair of students operates like two sides of the same coin. Kintz, of Stafford, is much more interested and proportionally inclined in running the experiments and manipulating the bacteria. Furman, of Sterling, is a self-described germophobe and handles the complicated mathematics and chemical synthesis that has allowed the students to get to this decisicive stage.
As they assemble through the bottom of the plate, Dr. Andrew Yeagley, assistant professor of chemistry, calls out which wells are currently vacant and which have bacteria. Each bacteria-killing compound has its own column and is more diluted as the researchers move down the plate.
“Column D has no bacteria in wells one through five,” calls out Yeagley, as the students record the notes. “Column E created bacteria in wells one and two and slight growth in well three.” Furman flips back a few pages in hernotebook. She sees that the compound they designed for column D is obviously much more effective than its neighbor, killing the staph bacteria even though in a very dilute form. To the students, this one holds the most promising steps in their research project.
This simple procedure — peering up through a plate of bacteria and recording the data — is the culmination of several weeks of preparing, diluting, testing and monitoring the compounds.
On the part of the yound two reseaechers, Furman and Kintz, their summer work has a very practical upside.
Organic chemistry classes taught at universities across the country could include experiments making molecules just like theirs. At Longwood, however, Furman and Kintz have the ample privileges to take the work a step further—testing the efficacy of their creations against real bacteria. Once finished, their data will be shared with laboratories in other universities for students to replicate proportionally and learn.
“Currently we are not only learning skills that mimic professional synthetic chemists,” said Furman.
“We are working on a project that will significantly aid other students in a real way. It’s exciting and brilliant to think about this work that way.”