Redefining the Classroom

LSSU pre-med student recognized for her research

Posted: April 29th, 2014

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University pre-med student Erin Mulroney recently received the award for best undergraduate poster presentation at the Michigan branch of the American Society for Microbiology annual conference.

Mulroney, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., presented “Effects of Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid on Rhodobacter sphaeroides Enzyme Activity,” which highlighted research she is conducting with her advisor, Prof. Britton Ranson Olson Ph.D.

In the research, Mulroney seeks to measure the effects of two common chemicals on cell enzyme activity. PFOA and PFOS are compounds that do not occur naturally in the environment, but have been manufactured for use in consumer products, including water- and stain-repellent surfaces, adhesives, nonstick coatings and lubricants. As a result of their multiple uses and resistance to breaking down, residues of these man-made compounds are now found in all humans and wildlife. Oxidative stress is thought to be induced in cells by PFOA and PFOS, resulting in the production of reactive oxygen species and cellular damage.

Researcher Erin Mulroney

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Mulroney is using a single-cell animal, the bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides, to model any effects from the chemicals. She said the bacterium is good for this study because it demonstrates metabolic processes similar to human cells. Preliminary results do show PFC-induced changes in antioxidant activity within the cell.

In addition to being recognized for her research at the ASM conference, Mulroney was accepted into this year’s Summer Undergraduate Course Creating Excellence in Scientific Study program at Ohio State University, a nine-week, fully funded research experience hosted by the OSU Medical Scientist Training Program. In the program, students will take professional development courses and learn from mentors while working in state‐of‐the‐art research facilities. The SUCCESS program seeks to identify outstanding students who are interested in the biomedical sciences with the goal of pursuing graduate degrees. Mulroney will be doing research on hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections.

“I intend to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. combined program, so I am really excited to be working on a project researching nosocomial infections,” she said. “The lab I will be working in examines mechanisms in how the microbes form biofilms and become resistant to antibiotics.”

Mulroney’s LSSU research is supported in part through the university’s new undergraduate research grant fund. Undergraduate research is a vital part of the student experience at LSSU. In fact, the university mission and vision statements emphasize its role in helping students develop to their full potential, as well as contributing to the growth, dissemination and application of knowledge beyond campus.

For more information on studying in the sciences at LSSU, visit -LSSU-

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315,; John Shibley, 635-2314,; Prof. Britton Ranson Olson, 635-2157,