Press Release

Ohio Wesleyan Student Selected to Present Research at National Conference

March 4, 2016 – by Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan junior Madeline “Maddie” Vroom (right) has earned an American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study songbird plumage. OWU faculty member Laura Tuhela-Reuning, Ph.D., will serve as her mentor for the grant-funded research, which uses the university’s scanning transmission electron microscope. (Photo by Mark Schmitter ’12)

Update:

OWU senior Madeline “Maddie” Vroom has been selected to present her research at the American Society of Microbiology's ASM Microbe 2016, set for June 16-20 in Boston. Vroom also has earned a competitive ASM Student and Postdoctoral Travel Award to support her conference attendance. In the fall, she will enroll in a Ph.D. program in microbiology at the University of Florida.  Congratulations, Maddie!


Originally published May 7, 2015:

Ohio Wesleyan Student Earns National Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Madeline Vroom, Class of 2016, Receives Award from the American Society for Microbiology

Ohio Wesleyan junior Madeline “Maddie” Vroom (right) has earned an American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study songbird plumage. OWU faculty member Laura Tuhela-Reuning, Ph.D., will serve as her mentor for the grant-funded research, which uses the university’s scanning transmission electron microscope. (Photo by Mark Schmitter ’12)

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University junior Madeline “Maddie” Vroom has become the fifth student in OWU history to earn an American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Vroom, a microbiology major from Chicago, Illinois, will use the prestigious fellowship, which includes a $4,000 stipend, to support her ongoing research into how preen oil and bacteria affect the break down, or degradation, of bird feathers.

Vroom will receive a $4,000 research stipend and $1,000 travel stipend to enable her to attend the 2016 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) general meeting, where she will participate in an ASM Research Capstone Institute and present her findings.

“At ASM, we strive to afford this elite opportunity to the best and the brightest rising young scientists, whom we recognize will represent the society and themselves to their full potential,” Margaret Bauer, Ph.D., chair of the fellowship review committee, stated in Vroom’s award letter. “For this, we applaud your determination and motivation within the sciences and hope that you will enhance your research through the URF (Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program.”

Vroom’s research examines whether the thickness of a protective preening oil found on songbird feathers affects the ability of disease-causing bacteria to damage the plumage. Previous reports have differed on whether the oil has antibacterial properties, leading Vroom to question whether the oil’s viscosity may be a factor in protecting the birds.

Vroom’s research is overseen by Laura Tuhela-Reuning, Ph.D., a part-time professor of botany/microbiology and zoology and Ohio Wesleyan’s scanning transmission electron microscope technician.

“This is a novel idea and one that takes our research group in a new direction but reinforces and enhances our current research,” said Tuhela-Reuning, noting that OWU’s avian microbiology group has been active for more than 20 years. “As Maddie is doing now, so will future students be able to build on this work by further investigating movement of bacteria on avian plumage.”

As for Vroom’s future after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan, she plans to attend graduate school to work toward a Ph.D. concentrating on the epidemiology and pathology of microbial diseases.

“I anticipate pursuing a research-based career and am currently interested in developing vaccines and treatments against microbial diseases for which none currently exist, or researching new antibiotics,” said Vroom, whose mother, Sallie, is a 1981 Ohio Wesleyan graduate.

Vroom said following in her mother’s footsteps was an easy choice for her: “I knew my future lay in the biological sciences, and that I would perform best at a smaller university where I could really get to know my professors and peers,” she said. “OWU is renowned for its quality science programs, and all the pieces just sort of fell into place.”

Previous OWU student-recipients of ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowships include Chloe Hamrick Williams, Class of 2011, currently enrolled in medical school at Michigan State University; Max Schroeder, Class of 2009, a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology at Emory University; George Hamaoui Jr., Class of 2007, a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and Heather Costello, Ph.D., Class of 2005, a scientist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

About the American Society for Microbiology

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Society for Microbiology is the world’s largest life science society, comprised of more than 39,000 scientists and health professionals. Its mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide. Learn more at www.asm.org.

About Ohio Wesleyan University

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers 86 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world experience. OWU’s 1,750 students represent 46 U.S. states and territories and 43 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the latest President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.