Maureen Morrow (Biology) (left) provides Amber Dabroski '08 (Biology) with guidance and support in the laboratory in Coykendall Science Building.
The fusion of a professor's skills, an alumnus's business project and a student's eagerness for real-world experience has resulted in a collaboration that has benefits for the campus, community and planet.
This summer, Amber Dabroski '08 (Biology) and Maureen Morrow (Biology) are busy working in the lab to create a robust enzyme for use in the production of ethanol, a bio-friendly fuel alternative.
The idea for the project originated with Larry Cosenza '86 (Biology), who is co-founder and chief science manager of C2 Biotechnologies LLC in Kingston, a company that develops industrial enzymes for bio-fuel markets. Ethanol production is one method scientists are researching as a way to develop bio-friendly fuel.
C2 Biotechnologies invested the money to fund the project and purchased a new piece of equipment for the Biology Department. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine will be used by Dabroski and Morrow to manipulate DNA. Morrow said the PCR machine will also be used in future laboratory courses at the college.
The student/professor team spends their days - usually about 8 hours - manipulating DNA and studying protein functions in the micro/molecular lab (Room 209) in the Coykendall Science Building in order to produce a protein that will be able to withstand varying temperatures in the ethanol production process.
Cosenza first approached the college about writing a grant to get more students to enter the field of biotechnology. Although the biotechnology workforce training grant was not funded, Cosenza, who left New York to attend doctoral school in Boston and work for NASA in Alabama, was impressed with the work put in by Morrow and Hon Ho, chair of the Biology Department.
Cosenza saw an opportunity to work with dedicated people and provide a great learning opportunity for a student standing in the same place he was more than 20 years ago. Involvement in the project also has immediate benefits for his company, which was founded in Ulster County in 2006.
"It's really boosted the morale of me and my staff," Cosenza said.
Morrow said that working on real projects enriches the learning experience for students like Dabroski to grow as scientists and researchers.
"Students can see their lessons in a different way and be exposed to state-of-the-art equipment and methods," she said.
Dabroski, who has aspirations to work in a laboratory following her graduation next year, said it is interesting for her to see a graduate out in the work force.
The college senior receives a stipend from C2 Biotechnologies, but says she is involved in the project, which may continue into the fall semester, for the experience.
"I am able to apply everything I've learned (in the classroom) to new situations in the lab," she said.