In the Lyme Light
Ashley Bono â€™09 is trying to take the bite out of tick-borne diseases
Ashley Bono â€™09 fell in love with bacteria in a sophomore introductory microbiology course. As a senior, she put her fascination to work on a capstone project funded by a Commonwealth College Honors Research Grant. She studied the causes of Lyme disease and other tick-borne bacterial illnesses.
Working in the Fernald Hall lab of entomology professor Stephen Rich, Bono analyzed the gene sequences of the bacteria associated with deer ticks and studied how the bacteria affect the tick life cycle.
â€śBacteria are everywhere and theyâ€™re amazing,â€ť Bono says. â€śWhenever we think they canâ€™t live somewhere or do something, it turns out they can. Some of them can even eat metal!â€ť
As a Commonwealth College scholar, she didnâ€™t have to wait for graduate school to conduct high-level research. She received a $1,000 research grant for lab equipment and supplies from the honors college. â€śI have a whole lot of gene sequencing to do and it can get expensive,â€ť she says.
Commonwealth College, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has long promoted student research. Original research in the form of a capstone project is a graduation requirement. Bono was one of 37 students who received Honors Research Grants in the 2008-09 academic year. She is presenting her project with an oral defense in the spring at the Commonwealth College-sponsored statewide conference on undergraduate research.
Bonoâ€™s project may help scientists figure out how Lyme (one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States) and other tick-borne illnesses are spread. â€śIf weâ€™re lucky,â€ť she says, â€śweâ€™ll find something that will help us better understand the means of Lyme disease transmission.â€ť