Undergraduate Research Covers Microbiology

Illustration generated by IBERS staff and students and used on the front cover of the November 2012 edition of 'Microbiology Journal'

Illustration generated by IBERS staff and students and used on the front cover of the November 2012 edition of 'Microbiology Journal'

05 November 2012

IBERS undergraduate research has been published in the prestigious international journal Microbiology this month with a related image gracing the journal’s cover.

The work of three third-year project students focused on the social and predatory bacterium Myxococcus xanthus. The students who were studying towards degrees in Biochemistry and Genetics with Biochemistry discovered that the bacterium killed its prey by releasing antimicrobial chemicals packaged together into little parcels called vesicles. The vesicles can then fuse with a prey cell, releasing digestive enzymes into its interior and killing it.

Microbiology is the flagship journal of the Society for General Microbiology, which is the largest learned microbiological society in Europe with a worldwide membership based in universities, industry, hospitals, research institutes and schools. The research paper was also accompanied by a cover image for the journal depicting vesicle-mediated predation (pictured).

The project students were supervised by Dr David Whitworth, the IBERS Lecturer in Biochemistry. "It’s a thoroughly rewarding experience to guide students through their project, but when their work is acknowledged as being of international quality through publication in the professional literature, then it gives a real boost to all of us, and will hopefully spur the next steps in those students’ careers. It’s also a visible demonstration of the importance that we put into the mutually beneficial relationship between research and teaching at Aberystwyth." Two of the three students have gone on to study for PhDs across the UK, while the third is working in an analytical laboratory.

Lecturer in Biology at IBERS and co-author of the article Dr. Hazel Davey, said "This piece of work is an excellent example of students, technical staff and lecturers working together as a team to provide important scientific insights whilst training and nurturing research talent of the future". The third year project is one of the crowning elements of Bachelor degrees in IBERS, when students get the option to work alongside staff undertaking novel research.