Bacteria and Botany: A Biological Summer – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Bacteria and Botany: A Biological Summer

Davidson, Kohl and McCarthy intern at the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva

Thanks to Professor of Biology Thomas Glover, three William Smith seniors spent their summer studying bacterial diseases in plants. Seniors Sarah Davidson, Kathleen Kohl and Meaghan McCarthy recently finished internships at the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station where they were paired with excellent mentoring scientists.

Davidson, a biology major and Latin American studies minor, worked with graduate student Maryann Borsick Herman on her study of the effect of biocontrol agents on peppers and tomatoes. “My work with Maryann was studying Pseudomonas syringae (PST), a bacteria that negatively affects tomatoes,” says Davidson. “Using a Polymerase Chain Reaction on samples of tomato leaf plants, we were able to study the amount and accumulation period of PST on the tomato leafs. So far our findings have shown that a greater accumulation period correlates to a greater amount of PST on the plant.”

Kohl, a double major in biology and public policy, observed a bacteria and plant of a slightly different sort. “I studied Xanthomonas campestris, which causes Black Rot in cabbage with Postdoctoral Fellow Tanya Taylor,” Kohl explains. “I aided Dr. Taylor in the analysis of different genes that relate to Diffusible Signal Factors, which causes bacteria to invade a plant and either aggregate or disperse. However, our project was still in its early stages, so our results are not yet conclusive.”

McCarthy, a biology major and dance minor, worked as a lab assistant for several projects with Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology Kerik Cox. “One of my main projects was a study of tree and stone fruits,” says McCarthy. “We studied Venturia inequalis, which causes apple scab. Because the fungus causes discolored lesions in the fruit, it really hinders the apple market, especially in an area like upstate New York. So we were working on finding correlations related to fungicide resistance.”

Despite the nuances that differentiate their work, Davidson, Kohl and McCarthy found their internship experiences had a lot in common. “We all feel fortunate to be some of the very few undergraduate students who were able to work with the professors and scientists at the Experiment Station. It says a lot about Hobart and William Smith that we were allowed to be here doing this work” McCarthy explains.

Glover praises the mentors at the Agricultural Station, such as Assistant Professor Christine Smart and Cox. “They truly gave our students a real world experience of science to complement the HWS science classroom,” Glover says.