The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Matthew D. Nelson, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University, a $750,000 grant to continue his research into the neuroscience of sleep. Read more from SJU News…
Saint Joseph’s University has welcomed an AmeriCorps VISTA member, Ashley Bliss, to help coordinate science education outreach activities for the 2018-19 academic year.
Bliss, of Neptune, New Jersey, will assess needs of university and school partners and develop a plan to help insure sustainability of outreach activities that began with grant funding. Her position is supported by Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents that is committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education. Read More from SJU News…
Saint Joseph’s associate professor of biology, Catalina Arango, Ph.D., has been awarded a $252,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her research into the regulation of gene expression. The award is part of a $560,000 grant shared with Preston Garcia, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Castleton University. Read more from SJU News…
PHILADELPHIA (January 30, 2018) — Saint Joseph’s University is pleased to announce that it has signed an articulation agreement with Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing that will provide priority admissions consideration for SJU students in Villanova’s BSN Express Program. The 14-month second degree program incorporates all of the standard components of Villanova’s nursing program in a concentrated timeframe.
“We are happy to have this opportunity to offer Villanova’s excellent affiliate program to our graduates,” says Shaily Menon, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “With the demand for BSN nurses in the job market, we know that this affiliation will enable our students to enter the profession as leaders in all practice settings.”
A minimum of five qualified SJU graduates or students annually will be offered admission to this second-degree option. To qualify for consideration, students must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, complete all stated nursing prerequisite courses with a grade of B or higher, and apply to Villanova by October 15 of their senior year at SJU. Students may identify their interest in this option in their sophomore year so that they can begin working with the Villanova nursing representatives early in the process.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with Saint Joseph’s through this new agreement. Saint Joseph’s graduates have succeeded in our BSN program since its inception and it’s been a delight to watch them launch their nursing careers,” says Lesley A. Perry, Ph.D., R.N., interim dean of the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing.
Villanova’s Accelerated BSN Program for College Graduates is approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing and fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
For more information, contact: Cheryl Wert, recruitment specialist at the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Connie O’Hara, health professions advisor at Saint Joseph’s University, email@example.com.
About the Villanova University Louise M. Fitzpatrick College of Nursing: The Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing is a nationally recognized, premier nursing program, committed to its Augustinian Catholic values and the tireless pursuit of academic and clinical excellence in nursing and nursing education. Founded in 1953, the College is designated a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. It is home to two centers—Global and Public Health, and the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education, which provide students the opportunity to integrate knowledge with practical experience. The College is committed to a teacher-clinician scholar model, offering undergraduate, continuing education, graduate and doctoral programs, that prepare students to assume positions as compassionate, productive, ethical and socially responsible practitioners and leaders at the forefront of modern health care. Visit villanova.edu/nursing.
As your winter boots — or even worse, your tires — slide along icy roads, environmental conservation may be the last thing on your mind. But not for Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She explains the impact of road salt on the biological world — especially in your tap water.
As a plant biology professor at Saint Joseph’s University, I’m responsible for a small rooftop greenhouse. Several years ago in the early spring I noticed some plants were yellow, so I gave them a shot of fertilizer. To my surprise, instead of recovering their green color, most of the plants died a few days later. After considering many possibilities, I figured out that the plants didn’t need fertilizer at all: They were yellow because I was watering them with salty water.
The water for the greenhouse comes right out of the tap. Why was it so salty?
Here in Philadelphia drinking water comes from the rivers, like it does for many cities. The water treatment system removes sediments and disease-causing organisms, but it can’t change the concentration of dissolved minerals. The levels of sodium, chloride and other minerals vary from week to week, but over the year average levels are quite acceptable and the water is completely safe for drinking. However, because of all the salt used to treat roads, parking lots and sidewalks after snowstorms, sodium and chloride levels may go way up for short periods of time.
So now, a couple days after it snows, I start testing the tap water. When the chloride level goes over 200 ppm, I use distilled water or melted snow on susceptible plants, like beans, citrus and corn. I work in a science building that has special water treatment capability, so I can haul distilled water to my plants for those few days in the year when the salt levels are high. But I wonder how many plants are lost every winter to puzzled gardeners, bedding plant producers and houseplant devotees.
It might seem strange that water that is safe for people to drink could kill plants. The problem is that plants have to take up all the mineral nutrients they need in dissolved form, through their roots. If there is too much sodium or chloride, the plants have trouble getting other essential minerals, like phosphorus and potassium.
And it’s not just greenhouse plants that are damaged by too much salt. Even if they aren’t killed outright, trees, grasses and other plants adjacent to roadsides can be severely stressed by salt, making them more susceptible to disease and drought.
There is evidence that the problem is even more widespread. Nationwide, the use of salt for de-icing has increased steadily since 1940. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation uses around 500,000 tons of salt each winter, and local municipalities use more. All this salt washes into the storm sewers and eventually into the streams and rivers. Numerous studies show that the amount of salt in many waterways is gradually increasing. Higher salt levels are being recorded — not just in winter, but in all seasons of the year. If current trends continue, the effects of excessive salt use could eventually impact crop production. Urban areas, where growing food has lately become of great interest, would seem to be especially vulnerable.
There is no one easy solution to this problem. We have become so accustomed to roads and sidewalks being cleared that it would be impossible to just stop doing it. And of course, nobody wants people to get hurt in car accidents and falls due to icy surfaces. Sand or cinders can sometimes be used instead of salt. In parts of the world that get lots of snow, people might not see the actual road surface for months: After every snow, more gritty material is applied and it may even be swept up in spring and reused. There are other ways to provide traction: Car tires can be outfitted with chains or studs, and cleats or other traction devices on shoes work well to prevent slips and falls. In a few places, busy roads, bridges and sidewalks are heated to melt the ice. But it isn’t likely that these solutions will catch on in regions that only have periodic snowstorms.
At least we could be more sparing in our use of salt. Maybe putting down salt on roadways before a large snow could be avoided — it will just be plowed to the side anyway. Applying salt after first plowing could reduce the amount used. I have watched a maintenance worker use a leaf blower to move excess salt from the sidewalk to the lawn after somebody went overboard in pre-treating the walkway, and people were actually slipping on the salt.
Perhaps if we think about salt as the toxic chemical that it is we’d be more likely to limit its use as much as possible, like we do with petroleum products and other toxins. Or, consider where road-salt comes from: Much of it is mined from deposits laid down when the continent was a large shallow sea. By digging up these deposits and adding them into our freshwater lakes and streams, we are ever so slowly converting our productive forests, fields and rivers back into salt flats, where only a few tolerant plants can thrive, and very few of them provide food for human consumption.
The H3N2 influenza virus is at its peak this flu season with over 35,000 cases and 65 deaths in the state of Pennsylvania alone. This strain is more likely to cause serious illness or death, especially the elderly and young children, than other strains in previous years. While many argue about the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine, with reports indicating a 30 percent success rate, medical microbiologist Michael McCann, Ph.D. ’87, professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, still recommends getting the flu shot.
“The vaccine’s effectiveness – or lack thereof – this year depends on what happened when the viruses were being grown in the lab,” says McCann. “The H3N2 virus that was used in this year’s vaccine preparations mutated early on in the process, making it different from the strain infecting people. This means the vaccine cannot provide full protection against it.”
According to McCann, since the flu virus mutates quickly a new vaccine combination needs to be prepared each year.
Months before the American flu season, scientists observe the southern hemisphere to discover what next year’s strains of flu might look like and develop a vaccine based on these predictions. “Some years, the predictions aren’t absolutely correct,” explains McCann. “A predominant strain in the southern hemisphere may be different than what arises here.”
Although the effectiveness of a vaccination can vary year to year, McCann thinks it is better to be safe in these instances. “A success rate of 30 percent is better than nothing,” he says. “The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work for you, while the best case scenario is it prevents you from getting sick.”
Even though the vaccination is the most well-known method for preventing influenza, McCann urges taking conventional precautionary steps to further prevent contracting the virus and spreading it to others. “Cough into the crook of your arm, not onto your hand,” recommends McCann. “When you cough, little water droplets that spread viruses and bacteria get expelled. If you cough into your hand, you are more likely to spread disease causing germs on a door handle and other objects that we are always in contact with.”
He also touts handwashing as vital to preventing the spread of bacteria during flu season. “Using soap and warm water for a good twenty seconds works,” says McCann. “The soap inactivates the virus, and the water gets rid of underlying dirt that hand sanitizers don’t reach.”
If hand sanitizer is your only option, alcohol-based products prevent the spread of disease-causing viruses and germs more effectively than those that are not alcohol-based. “There is scientific evidence that bacteria can evolve resistance to the chemicals in non-alcohol based hand sanitizers,” says McCann.
He adds that the disinfectants used in these hand sanitizers are also used to sterilize medical facilities and equipment, making it crucial that they are not used inappropriately. “Using these chemicals for hand sanitizing when they are not needed increases the risk of bacteria evolving resistance to those disinfectants, which will render them less effective,” says McCann. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not have this drawback and are the best bet when soap and water are not available.”
While many hope flu season is coming to an end by springtime, McCann warns not to relax too soon. “The virus can linger until May in North America,” he warns, “and the data suggests it hasn’t even peaked yet in the Philadelphia area.”
Marisa Egan, a junior biology major at Saint Joseph’s University, has been named a recipient of the 2017 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
The prestigious scholarship, given annually to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
Egan, who also holds minors in mathematics, philosophy and chemistry and is a John P. McNulty Scholar at SJU, is one of only 240 students nationwide to receive a scholarship from a pool of 1,286 applicants. An additional 307 nominees were named Honorable Mentions.
Since her freshman year, Egan, a King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, native, has worked in the lab of Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, conducting research on the pathogenic bacterium Escherichia albertii. The bacterium, which is in the same family as E. coli, attacks the intestines, causing diarrheal problems. It is drug resistant, has no vaccine, and largely affects infants in developing countries, though some cases have appeared in adults in Japan and Germany. Egan and Dr. Bhatt were the first research team to successfully create such a mutation in the bacterium since it was identified 25 years ago. Their research was published last year in Biological Procedures Online. Egan was the lead author. She has also co-authored sevearl other papers.
“Marisa is one of the most gifted students to have ever graced my classroom,” Bhatt says. “Ever since I have known her, she has exhibited uninhibited enthusiasm in learning all that she can from her academic journey. It’s students like her that teach teachers so much and serve as a motivator to go the extra mile for our students.”
Egan says she is honored to be a Goldwater Scholarship recipient. “I know that I would not have been able to attain this achievement without the overwhelming support that I have received from my parents, peers and professors, especially Dr. Bhatt,” she says. “As a Goldwater Scholar, I hope to continue pursuing my academic, research, and leadership goals in a balanced and refreshed manner, inspired by the SJU community around me.”
The Goldwater Scholarship was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the work of Senator Barry Goldwater, who served as a longtime military officer and on the armed forces, intelligence, Indian affairs, commerce, science and transportation committees in Congress.
Jennifer Choi Tudor, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University, has earned an Outstanding Early Investigator Award Honorable Mention from the Sleep Research Society. Her 2016 study, “Sleep deprivation impairs memory by attenuating mTORC1-dependent protein synthesis,” examines the effects of sleep deprivation on the molecular mechanism to form memories.
“We are delighted that the Sleep Research Society has honored Dr. Tudor for her important contribution to the neuroscience of sleep deprivation,” says Christina King-Smith, professor and chair of biology. “SJU is fortunate to have such a talented teacher and scholar as a faculty member.”
Tudor’s study, published in Science Signaling, has significant implications for most Americans’ abysmal sleeping habits, particularly for college students.
“In a mouse that has been sleep deprived for a single period of time, even as short as five hours (the equivalent of staying awake until 2 a.m. for humans), the brain’s ability to make the proteins required to make memories is impaired,” says Tudor. “For students that stay up late to study, for example, lack of sleep would attenuate the process to make memories of their test material.”
The Sleep Research Society organizes scientists who educate on and research sleep, offering trainings and opportunities for collaboration. The Outstanding Early Investigator Award recognizes an excellent investigative effort by an early-stage sleep researcher.
Science Café at the Landmark, sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences: “Small but Powerful: What can we learn from flies, worms, and yeast?” A presentation to the local community by three M.S. Biology candidates, Rene Clark (faculty mentors: Jonathan Fingerut and Scott McRobert), Nicole Sullivan (Matthew Nelson) and Mark Tingey (Julia Lee-Soety).
The department welcomes Dr. Jennifer Choi Tudor, Assistant Professor of Biology. Dr. Tudor is a neuroscientist and her recent study on sleep deprivation leading to impaired protein synthesis and memory was the cover story for Science Signaling. Her lab will focus how sleep and disease affects molecular and cellular signaling pathways critical for memory and behavior.