University Community | Research and Impact

Goldwater Scholar infects culture cells to look at the severity of staph infections on different strains

Emily Marino would tell you that growing up she was a germaphobe and always interested in the microbiology of germs; how they worked, the different types of bacteria, and how it affected a person’s body. Today, she’s taken that interest into her studies and career, researching Staphylococcus aureus, or the bacterial pathogen that causes staph infections in order to help solve bigger problems on a micro scale.

Not only has her long interest in microbiology allowed her to work hands-on researching it, but she was recently named a Goldwater Scholar.

“It means a lot to be recognized for my research and to feel like the work I’m doing is important enough to be looked at on such a prestigious scale,” Marino said. “I love having the opportunity to do this research as an undergrad and feel like I’ve made a lot of my mentors and colleagues proud.”

Marino, a junior biological sciences major in the Honors Tutorial College from Grove City, Ohio, has been working under associate professor Dr. Ronan Carroll and in his lab studying staph infections since spring semester her freshman year.

“In the history of successful and smart students I’ve worked with, Emily is up there at the top,” Carroll said. “She has done incredible work in the lab, developing a technique that has advanced many graduate students’ research and overall giving us a new approach to experiments in the lab. Emily has become a very influential member of the lab and it’s been great to see her progression over the years.”

Her work in the lab specifically looks at the virulence, or severity of a disease, on different strains by infecting culture cells. Culture cells are cells grown under controlled conditions, outside of their natural environment, for the purpose of being infected by mutant strains of infection to see how it reacts. Her main role in this includes maintaining the human cell culture lines.

“I’m fortunate Dr. Carroll took a chance on me and really allowed me to get involved in his lab early on,” Marino added. “Nothing can replace working hands-on in a lab and I truly feel like having that experience early on in my college career gave me an edge in my other classes, allowing me to apply that experience in other areas.”

Part of her job maintaining the human cell culture lines includes making sure they’re not being contaminated prior to using them for experiments. She explains that the lab has a line of macrophages, which are immune cells, and a line of nasal epithelial cells which they can infect these cells with staph and use it to measure virulence of different strains.

Marino is one of 410 students selected nationally to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, room, and board up to a maximum of $7,500.

Aside from being named a Goldwater Scholar, Marino was originally a recipient of the 2020 DAAD RISE program where she was offered an internship to study at Rühr Universität in Bochum, Germany, working on a project involving E. coli. Unfortunately, due to COVID, she was unable to travel abroad for the internship and was offered the internship again in 2021. She also received the John J. Kopchick award in the Fall of 2020.

She also was a contributing author on a recently published paper in the journal mSphere titled “Staphylococcus aureus Responds to Physiologically Relevant Temperature Changes by Altering Its Global Transcript and Protein Profile.” The paper looks at the different temperature changes when a staph infection is colonizing in a person’s nose.

Marino plans to go into a graduate program where she can go straight into obtaining her Ph.D. She plans to continue to work with bacteria and is interested in researching other types of infections aside from staph.

Marino recognized Christopher Lewis in the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards for helping her through the application process, Carroll for mentoring her throughout her college career, as well as Dr. Monica Burdick, Dr. Roxanne Malé -Brune, Dr. Jennifer Hines, Dr. Rebecca Keogh, Dr. Soichi Tanda, and Rachel Zapf, without whom she could not have accomplished this. She also thanked the other members of the Carroll lab for their help and support; Richard Wiemals, Dr. Donald Holzschu, Raeven Bastock, Hailee Sorensen, Marcus Wittekind, Abby Bonsall, Dr. Paul Briaud, Ana Mayher, and Riley Zielinski.


April 19, 2021
Samantha Pelham