Student Research Bolstered Through VGN Grant

Castleton is pleased to announce that Professor Preston Garcia of the Natural Sciences Department was recently awarded a Vermont Genetics Network grant in the amount of $25,000 for the second consecutive year to continue his specialized bacteria research.

“My work focuses on the metabolism of a beneficial soil bacteria, Sinorhizobium meliloti. These bacteria grow symbiotically with some plants like peas and soybean to help the plants have better access to certain nutrients, especially nitrogen,” said Garcia. 

Through his research, Garcia said he aims to create a genetically unique strain of bacteria that will serve as beneficial to the biomedical community.

“This research can help us get a better understanding of how important agricultural crops interact with these bacteria with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity,” he said.

Additionally, the grant will help the efforts of the Natural Sciences Department to establish an active externally funded research program across all disciplines.

“An integral component to this mission is the participation of undergraduates in our research laboratories,” said Garcia.

The VGN grant will allow Garcia to employ students to aid in his research while gaining relevant experiences to add to their resumes. In addition to the grant, Garcia has also encouraged his students to apply for outside funding opportunities for their research.

As a result, sophomore Christopher Villa was recently awarded a fellowship from the American Society of Microbiology for his role in the project. Selected from applicants all over the nation, Villa began his research this past summer and will continue his efforts throughout the academic year.

“This has certainly been one of the biggest highlights of my time here at Castleton, and I’m very fortunate to have had such an opportunity,” said Villa.

With all of his data collected, Villa said he is now focused on analyzing his experiment results and numerical value of the soil bacteria. To conclude his fellowship, this spring Villa will travel to an ASM conference in New Orleans to present a poster with the results of his project.

“Independent research, outside of the classroom, which is externally funded and data driven is essential for science majors to be competitive in jobs, graduate and professional schools after leaving Castleton,” said Garcia. “A stronger research presence at Castleton will allow for increased numbers of well-trained science students in the state of Vermont.”