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UMPI biology student receives major research fellowship

Lydia Tilley, a University of Maine at Presque Isle freshman majoring in medical laboratory technology and biology, has received a prestigious national award that will allow her to conduct important research this summer and scholarly work during the next year—Tilley was awarded a 2017 American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship.

“Only a handful of these fellowships are given out to students across the country, and we are so pleased to have Lydia counted among them,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Her fellowship is yet another example of the extraordinary undergraduate research occurring on our campus and the outstanding opportunities being provided for students by our faculty. We look forward to seeing the results of the research Lydia will help to conduct.”

The ASM fellowship will allow Tilley, a native of Newburgh, Maine, to conduct a minimum of 10 weeks of summer research and includes a $4,000 stipend, as well as up to $2,000 for travel to the 2018 ASM Microbe Academy for Professional Development and the 2018 ASM Microbe Meeting. The award will support her work with UMPI Assistant Professor of Biology Larry Feinstein to continue research efforts in identifying and comparing genes in pathogens that are resistant or susceptible to antibiotics.

Dr. Feinstein has been working on this research, and collaborating with TAMC on aspects of it, for the past two years. The research project “Comparative Functional Genomics of Antibiotic Resistant and Antibiotic Susceptible Pathogens” has received a $23,000 INBRE/National Institutes of Health grant award. Tilley had the opportunity to present the work she and Dr. Feinstein have conducted so far during the 44th annual Maine Biological and Medical Sciences Symposium in Bar Harbor.

As part of the fellowship, Tilley will write an abstract of her research for submission to the 2018 ASM Microbe Meeting and present her research during the international conference.

“It’s amazing to have an opportunity like this so early in my undergraduate career and I’m excited to learn more and expand my knowledge,” Tilley said. “I think it’s great to work on a project that might have a real and visible impact on an international level.”

This summer, Tilley and Dr. Feinstein will compare the DNA of pathogens that are either resistant or susceptible to antibiotics to find the genes that are present in the resistant pathogens. In previous studies, this information has been used to identify new targets for antibiotic therapy. Tilley and Dr. Feinstein plan to publish their research results and hope that they can contribute to future studies on pathogens and antibiotic therapy.

“As a mentor, it’s incredibly exciting and fulfilling to have a student excel and be recognized by an international organization,” Dr. Feinstein said. “I’m grateful to be able to do this kind of work at UMPI and very appreciative that UMPI supports the work.”

Dr. Feinstein also is enthusiastic about Tilley’s opportunity to present her research at the ASM Microbe Meeting in 2018.

“I know how enriching it is to present at an international conference and I am so pleased that UMPI helps to provide such opportunities for students,” he said.

The ASM-URF program is designed to assist students who are pursuing careers in the microbial sciences and provide them with research experiences. For more information about UMPI’s Biology Program, contact Dr. Feinstein at (207) 768-9498 or larry.feinstein@maine.edu.