Sara was on a research team to develop a system to reprogram the genetic material of bacteria to optimize a metabolic process of the team’s choosing. The team includes students and faculty from Missouri Western and Davidson College, in North Carolina. The National Science Foundation was so impressed with the research being done, they awarded the team a grant of $1.1 million to continue their work. The team went on to research metabolic pathways optimization. This initiative will be useful in the development of asthma medication and cleanup of oil spills.
The three-year NSF grant will provide 18 undergraduate students with full-time summer research jobs and summer support for faculty researchers. It will also pay for research supplies and equipment, face-to-face research meetings on each campus, and travel to professional conferences.
The synthetic biology research project is a good example of the kind of learning activity that, in most large universities, would be reserved for graduate students. Instead, Missouri Western provides this type of opportunity to undergraduate students, allowing them to work one-on-one with faculty members on significant, post-graduate level research projects.
In Spring 2014, Sara received her undergraduate degree in biology, with a concentration in health science. She is now pursuing a degree in biomedical science at the University of Kansas Hospital (KU Med) in Kansas City, Missouri. NSF continues to fund the synthetic biology research being done at Missouri Western, and in Fall 2016, awarded the team another grant of $1.1 million dollars to fund their research for the next three years.