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Molecular Biology Major Received Drinko Research Grant

Friday, September 23, 2011

Westminster College senior molecular biology major Katie Sinagoga received an undergraduate research grant from Westminster's Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Sinagoga's research, "RNAi Suppression of sarA in Staphylococcus aureus, a Regulatory Mechanism for Expression of the Ica Operon and Biofilm Formation," is conducted under the supervision of Dr. Joshua Corrette-Bennett, associate professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Biology, and is the culmination of her four years in Westminster's All-College Honors Program.

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is fairly harmless on human skin but can become a serious, even deadly, health concern if it enters the body.  The protective coating on the bacterium, also known as a biofilm, helps the bacterium evade the immune system and reduces the efficacy of many antibiotics.

Sinagoga's project is trying to determine whether small pieces of DNA and RNA can be used to turn off synthesis of the biofilm, making the bacterium more susceptible to standard antibiotics. 

"Katie is an exceptional student with an outstanding work ethic and an innate aptitude for scientific inquiry," Corrette-Bennett said.

Prior research by Westminster molecular biology graduates Emily Fink (2010) and Peter Um (2006) was used to master techniques and gather knowledge about the bacterium and the process of suppression.

Sinagoga is a daughter of John and MaryBeth Sinagoga of Imperial and a graduate of West Allegheny High School.

Contact Corrette-Bennett at (724) 946-7208 or email for additional information.