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Microbiology Student Only Undergraduate Nationally to Win Sarber Award

(Posted November 16, 2009)

Ryan Johnson, 2010 Sarber Award winner

HUNTINGDON Pa. -- Ryan Johnson, a senior from Mountain Top, Pa. at Juniata College studying biology, received the 2010 Raymond W. Sarber Award for Scientific Achievement from the American Society for Microbiology, the only undergraduate in the nation to receive the award.

Johnson, the son of Dave and Judy Johnson of Mountain Top, will receive a $1,500 financial award and a certificate at the meeting. He will be recognized for his achievement at the society's May meeting in San Diego, Calif.

The Raymond W. Sarber Awards recognize students at the undergraduate and predoctoral levels for research excellence and potential. Up to two awards per year are presented in honor of Raymond W. Sarber and his contributions to the growth and advancement of American Society for Microbiology. Johnson's award is the second year in a row that a Juniata student has received the award.

Johnson has centered his interests and research on microbiology and hopes to study virology in a doctoral program after graduation. "Doing lab research is the epitome of self-teaching," Johnson says. "The thrill of solving the biological mysteries of the natural world has not only challenged me as a student, but has provided me with the knowledge and skills to become a better researcher."

Johnson has worked on several research projects over three years at Juniata in the laboratory of Jennifer Bennett, von Liebig Postdoctoral Fellow in biology. Johnson's research project uses the bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor and characterizes genes within the bacteria that also are present in such pathogenic bacteria as E. coli and salmonella. "We are trying to see if these genes related to virulence and motility are active in the streptomyces cell," Johnson explains.

"The thrill of solving the biological mysteries of the natural world has not only challenged me as a student, but has provided me with the knowledge and skills to become a better researcher."
Ryan Johnson, senior, Mountain Top, Pa.

Johnson received a 2009 Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology to support his research. He received a $4,000 stipend, a society membership and travel expenses reimbursement to the society's upcoming meeting in San Diego.

Johnson is working with Bennett to publish their collaborative research and Johnson will present their research at the 2010 ASM meeting. He previously presented a research paper at a 2009 ASM meeting in Philadelphia and at symposiums at Bucknell University, Susquehanna University and Swarthmore College.

In addition Johnson has received an I-99 Regional Networking Internship Scholarship and received first prize from the Allegheny Branch of the American Society for Microbiology for a poster presentation of his research. This year he received a $1,000 grant from the National Academy of Sciences to support his research administered by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.

Johnson serves as the president of Juniata's Student Government from 2009-2010 and served as treasurer in 2008-2009. He is president of the Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society for 2009-2010 and served as treasurer in 2008-2009. He is vice president of Juniata's student chapter of the American Society for Microbiology.

Johnson has competed on Juniata's track and field team for four years, specializing in the javelin, weight throw and hammer throw. He earned second team all-conference honors last year.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.