As the morning light filtered through the Spanish moss draping a live oak, Kevin Cigala ‘13 stood in its shade, sifting shovelful after shovelful of dirt at Phillippi Estate Park.
The day before, New College students had mapped the site and began digging, finding a shell hammer and ax in a dense layer just 10 centimeters below the surface – signs of a nearby settlement some 1,300 years ago.
Now they were turning up lithic flakes, the remains from the making of stone tools. “It’s important for the public to see the real work of archaeology, not just the finds,” said Professor Uzi Baram, director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab.
In the waters a little north of New College, 2016 graduate Stephanie Morgan discovered a new bacterium that could be used to develop new antibiotics.
She found the Vibrio-genus bacterium in waters off Anna Maria Island, and nicknamed it “Pink” for its bright pigmentation. She then extracted its DNA for comparison with the National Institute of Health’s database, which indicated it is a new organism. Her experiments found the pigment molecules produce a broad-spectrum antibiotic that can limit the growth of bacteria known to cause infection in humans, giving it the potential to be used in medicine.
“Stephanie’s project is exceptional in many ways,” said biochemistry professor Katherine Walstrom, her advisor at New College. “Stephanie did both a bioinformatics analysis of the genome of the bacterial strain she isolated as well as a phenotypic, or growth characteristics, analysis and a chemical analysis of the pink pigment produced by the bacteria.”
“I think that her project is comparable to at least a master’s degree-level thesis,” Walstrom said. Morgan’s research won a “best poster” award in a competition at the American Society of Microbiology’s annual meeting.