Dr. Dave Cummings, professor of biology, and Dr. Ryan Botts, assistant professor of mathematics, were recently awarded a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will allow them to further study antibiotic resistance bacteria in the San Diego River and Tijuana Estuary wetlands.
“We will study questions like: where did the bacteria come from?” said Botts. “Did they move from the wetlands to the clinic or vice versa? How diverse are they? How many are there? What’s keeping them there?”
During the three years of their grant funding, the professors hope to collect 50 distinct plasmids with the help of PLNU students. The project will be interdisciplinary, involving students from both the Department of Biology and the Department of Mathematical, Information, and Computer Sciences, particularly those in the new computational science minor that started this year.
Cummings and his students will focus on gathering the bacteria, capturing the plasmids and DNA, and trying to identify what sort of antibiotic resistance they have. Colleagues from the University of Idaho will sequence the genes and return the sequences to PLNU.
At this point, Botts and his students will work to make sense of the data they receive. They will aim to identify which genes are involved in antibiotic resistance and to learn more about them. They will also compare the coding to what is showing up in the lab.
Botts and Cummings are excited about the ways the project will unite their fields and push each of them and their students in their skills and techniques. They are also excited to be the first people to see some of the gene sequences they will review.
“Each sequence is like meeting a new person and hearing their story,” said Botts.
“It’s exciting to be the first person in history to read something authored by God,” Cummings added.
Students will be involved through summer research, upper division course work, and honors projects.