Blake Sproles '14 and Grant Waldrop '14 are conducting microbiological research this
summer at Virginia Tech.
Ferrum, Va. (June 26, 2013) – This summer Ferrum College students Blake Sproles ’14 and Grant Waldrop ’14 are participating
in the 2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Virginia Tech.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program entitled “Microbiology
in the Post Genomic Era” began June 3 and will run through Aug. 9.
The NSF’s REU program allows research universities to provide summer research opportunities
for undergraduates. As biology majors, both Sproles and Waldrop gained independent
research experience working with Associate Professor of Molecular Biology Dr. Michaela
Gazdik, the College’s Biology Program Coordinator.
“The REU program is a highly competitive national program and I am very proud of both
Grant and Blake for being accepted. This is a great opportunity for them to expand
on the research skills they have learned in my lab and make some valuable contacts
in the field,” said Dr. Gazdik.
Waldrop is working with Tech’s Dr. Joe Falkinham to characterize newly identified
methylobacteria, as well as their effects of biofilm formation of non-tuberculosis
disease Mycobacterium. “The REU Microbiology program at Virginia Tech has offered
me the chance to experience significant research at a larger institution, that has
further fueled my dream to one day be on the doctoral degree holding side of this
experience,” said Waldrop.
Working with Tech’s Dr. Ann Stevens for his REU experience, Sproles is performing
microbiological experiments with the plant pathogenic bacteria Pantoea stewartii,
which is responsible for Stewart's wilt, a common plant disease that results in the
wilting and blighting of sweet corn. “We have targeted and are experimenting with
specific genes that play a role in the bacterial infection, “ explained Sproles. "I
am very excited to be a part of the Virginia Tech Microbiology REU program. Not only
have I gained a once in a life time hands-on laboratory experience, but I am also
becoming prepared for my future career.”
“We value undergraduate research at Ferrum and strive to provide meaningful opportunities
for students interested in research with our faculty. Blake and Grant have taken
full advantage of the resources our faculty have to offer in developing beginning
research experience,” said Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Gail L.
While participating in the REU program, Sproles and Waldrop will receive room and
board along with a $5,000 stipend. In addition to their independent research projects,
they will attend seminars and lectures by scientists in the field as well as career