Award-winning Student Investigates Potential Antibiotic
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) graduate Quinn Mason tied for first place, winning the “Lionel Cinq-Mars Award” for the best oral presentation by a student as a contributed paper at “Botany without Borders,” the Joint Annual Meeting of the Canadian Botanical Association (CBA)/L’Association Botanique du Canada (ABC), American Fern Society, American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the Botanical Society of America, held at UBC last week.
Mason, along with fellow presenter Charles Vaudry, whose pre-presentation abstracts prompted organizers to fund their trips to the conference with a ‘Keith Winterhalder Undergraduate Travel Award,’ was one of seven TRU students presenting at the conference.
“Impressively, Quinn competed against undergraduate students, master’s students, and Ph.D. students from all across Canada, and tied for first place. This is really prestigious, particularly as this is the premiere conference for anyone studying and researching plant biology in North America and beyond; many preeminent botanists were there,” said TRU biology professor Cynthia Ross Friedman.
Mason’s award-winning presentation described his research project, “Extraction, Partial Purification and Susceptibility Testing of a Potentially Novel Antibiotic from Lodgepole Pine Dwarf Mistletoe (Arceuthobium americanum).”
The study, which the cellular, molecular and microbial biology major began as an honours project in his final year, continued after he graduated from TRU with his Bachelor of Science degree this past June after he received funding in the form of a prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) student research award (USRA).
His work supports the larger research project underway by his supervisor Dr. Ross Friedman, who is examining a number of biological and ecological aspects related to dwarf mistletoe, an evergreen parasitic plant found on conifers in Canada,
“We don’t usually think of northern forest plants as important sources of pharmaceuticals,” said Ross-Friedman, ‘but in the course of this study, we checked out the antimicrobial properties of dwarf mistletoe, partly because we have all the equipment here, as a result of the investigations of another TRU microbiologist, Naowarat Cheeptham, who studies the antimicrobial properties of fungi, and partly because I had technical help from natural products chemist, Dr. Bruno Cinel.”
“I was kind of surprised to find that the extract from dwarf mistletoe works against the so-called ‘superbug,’ MRSA,” said Ross Friedman, who, along with TRU Master of Science in Environmental Sciences student, Kathryn Pernitsky, made the original discovery and filed the patents.
If the plant does yield a new antibiotic, Mason will benefit in another way: he plans to attend medical school once his research project is finished. TRU’s Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Nancy Van Wagoner, is certain of Mason’s future success.
“It is not surprising that many TRU graduates who have gone on to graduate school have indicated that they excel because they have already worked in a lab or in the field and have had the opportunity to engage in original research,” she said.
“One of TRU’s distinguishing features is the dedication of its faculty in working one-on-one with undergraduate students who wish to engage in independent research. Students at the bachelor degree level benefit from being able to design and pursue their own research projects under the direct supervision and mentorship of a faculty member engaged in a similar line of investigation.”
Other mistletoe-related talks by TRU students and faculty at the conference included:
Biosurfactants in the dwarf mistletoe, Arceuthobium americanum (Viscaceae)
Vaudry, Charles (student); Cinel, Bruno; Ross Friedman, Cynthia; Van Hamme, Jonathan.
Effect of male dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium americanum) infection on the potential antimicrobial properties of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia
Ross Friedman, Cynthia; More, Fawna N (student).
Do extracts from dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium, Viscaceae) affect the viability of salmon cells in tissue culture?
Koziura, Karl J. (student); Ross Friedman, Cynthia.
Immunolocalization of aquaporins in the fruit of the dwarf mistletoe Arceuthobium americanum (Viscaceae).
Ross Friedman, Cynthia.
For more information, please contact:
Quinn Mason at email@example.com or phone (250) 574-3167
Dr. Cynthia Ross Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (250) 377-3459
Charles Vaudry at email@example.com or phone (250) 434-6354
Dr. Nancy Van Wagoner at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (250) 314-7622
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