Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Federal Work-Study student Jaimarie Epistola Studies the Effects of Synergistic Combinations of Antibiotics on a Bacterium Called Acinetobacter baumannii

Hello, Mason Nation! I am Jaimarie Epistola, and I am sophomore pursing a major in Medical Laboratory Science and a minor in Public Health. My interest in microbiology began in high school. I was amazed by the huge impact that tiny organisms can cause on the human body. Due to my great interest for microbiology and desire to help others, I hope to become a medical laboratory scientist (MLS) in a hospital. This profession plays a vital role in the health care team. A MLS performs a variety of laboratory tests on patient samples, such as blood and urine, and helps interpret results for the rest of the team. About 80% of all medical decisions are based on these results!

I have been working as a research assistant in Dr. Monique van Hoek Lab located at the Science and Technology campus. I learned about her lab when I attended her colloquium for the Honors College. My OSCAR project focuses on effects of synergistic combinations of antibiotics on a bacterium called Acinetobacter baumannii (A. baumannii). This bacterium causes infections such as meningitis and urinary tract infection, especially in immuno-compromised patients. Treatment options are becoming limited due to antibiotic resistance. During the course of my research, I will test different combinations of antibiotics and determine which combination works the best to kill the bacteria. This determination is based on minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), the lowest concentration of an antibiotic that will inhibit bacterial growth. As of right now, I am determining the MIC of several antibiotics on A. baumannii individually. I use a spectrophotometer to measure the MIC and make calculations to determine percent bacterial growth. When I am not testing the antibiotics, I sterilize lab equipment and make sure the lab is neat and tidy. I also restock my lab supplies by making media and agar plates and by growing bacteria. During my work in the lab, I am learning more about microbiology and the research side of this field.

Even though my career goals are more focused on health care rather than research, my project and experience in van Hoek lab will develop a greater appreciation of the microbial world and treatment development. I am very grateful for this opportunity! I will use the knowledge and skills that I have gained from being a research assistant in my future endeavors.