Students Conduct Research at Ag Station – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Students Conduct Research at Ag Station

This summer Stephen Bruening ’13 and Ranata DeGennaro ’15 had the opportunity to present work conducted with professors at the Cornell University/New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, N.Y. 

At the end of the summer, a research poster session was held at Cornell where student researchers presented their findings. Numerous NYSAES faculty members attended the session along with Professor Emeritus Thomas Glover, who was an HWS biology professor, former HWS liaison to the NYSAES, and who pioneered the HWS relationship with Cornell University.

Among the 38 presenters included Bruening, who presented a poster titled “Tracking genetic structure changes through fingerprinting of an isolated population of Phytophthora capsici.” Bruening was one of three Rickey scholars this year, along with Nathan Martin ’13 and Sarah Buckleitner ’14. Each year, the generosity of the Brenda and David Rickey scholarship has enabled Hobart and William Smith to place students at the NYSAES for summer research. As a Rickey scholar, Bruening worked with Cornell faculty member Professor Christine D. Smart.

DeGennaro presented a poster titled “Plasmid Construction for creating a Xylella fastidiosa type I pili gene mutant and type IV pili protein.” She worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Patricia Mowery, in collaboration with Professor Thomas J. Burr, director of NYSAES.

Bruening, a chemistry major and health professions minor, worked in the Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology Department. Over the course of the summer, he studied a plant pathogen that causes major crop loss and threatens New York State farming and agriculture. Bruening collected diseased samples to determine how quickly populations mutate and whether the pathogen is able to overcome fungicides and plant resistance.

“Summer research has been highly rewarding,” Bruening says. “It’s given me an opportunity to explore a side of biology that I had never experienced. I’m planning on continuing my work throughout the school year.”

On campus, Bruening is a member of the Hobart soccer team and the Hobart football team. He is also the president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and is in the process of applying to medical and graduate schools to pursue a career in medicine.

DeGennaro is a rising sophomore and pre-med student involved in the early assurance program with Upstate Medical. She plans to major in biochemistry with a minor in environmental studies. Over the summer, DeGennaro completed several different molecular projects related to a plant pathogen that causes Pierce’s Disease in grapevines.

“To have the opportunity to work in Professor Mowery’s lab was a wonderful experience,” she says.

A member of the William Smith Rugby Team and Health Professions club, DeGennaro is active on campus. She also works at the Help Desk for IT Services and is an Orientation Mentor for the incoming classes of 2016.  DeGennaro will participate in the short-term abroad in Thailand over winter break.

“Everyone was always ready to listen and excited about the progress I made in my research. I could not have asked for a more perfect summer,” says DeGennaro. “Living on campus this summer was one of the most rewarding opportunities I could have asked for and I can’t wait for next summer.”

Mowery noted the poster session “was an impressive display of student achievement.”  She explained that for most students this was their first opportunity to experience being apart of a scientific forum and engaging with other scientists about their work. “These experiences help students realize the importance of their contribution and foster excitement about science,” says Mowery.

Each summer provides an opportunity for HWS faculty members to collaborate with the NYSAES faculty and undergraduate students from across the country in research via a Summer Research Scholars Program.  The Program is a nationally competitive program that is funded by the USDA Federal Formular Fund, NYSAES Director’s Excellence Fund, and the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“The relationship between HWS and NYSEAS is an invaluable one,” says Mowery. “Our students have the opportunity to work with post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and researchers from around the world and become part of an scientific community.”