Just back from attending the 2nd World Congress on Undergraduate Research in Oldenburg, Germany, Del Mar College (DMC) biotechnology major Danial Nasr Azadani said interacting with other student researchers from all over the world was the experience of a lifetime.
“It was just incredible to network and discuss my work with like-minded individuals,” said Azadani, 26, who plans to graduate from DMC in December. “Many of them asked me about the procedures and assays I’ve done. By the end of the conference, I had exchanged contact information with many other students in hopes of keeping in touch and maybe collaborating in the future.”
Approximately 200 students were selected to share their scientific research at the Congress, held May 23-25 at Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, located in northwest Germany.
Azadani presented his research on a virus, or bacteriophage, that attacks the bacterium Enterococcus faecalis, which causes infections in humans and can be difficult to treat because it’s antibiotic resistant. The title of his study is “Characterization and Complete Genome Sequence of a Novel Bacteriophage Infecting a Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Strain of Enterococcus Faecalis.”
“I was extremely proud to represent Del Mar College at the Congress,” Azadani said. “People were amazed at our biotechnology program and the work that we do here.”
Discoveries like Azadani’s are significant in the world of science and medicine because they can lead to the treatment of Enterococcus faecalis and other harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Vibrio and flesh-eating bacteria, said John “Rob” Hatherill, PhD, DMC professor of biology, who accompanied Azadani to the Congress.
“Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a global problem. By isolating a bacteriophage that goes after the bacteria and doesn’t harm humans, Danial is coming up with a solution.”
Undergraduate students, especially those from community colleges, are a rarity at the Congress because they usually don’t have advanced laboratory research experience, Hatherill added. In 2016, he accompanied DMC biotechnology student John Ramirez to the 1st World Congress on Undergraduate Research in Doha, Qatar.
“Most attendees are graduate students from large universities,” Hatherill said.
Azadani conducted his research on Enterococcus faecalis at DMC under Hatherill and Daiyuan “Daisy” Zhang, PhD, associate professor of biotechnology, and at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) under Jeffrey Turner, PhD, assistant professor of marine biology.
To date, students in DMC’s biotechnology program have discovered 137 previously unknown bacteriophages and documented them on a website, phagesdb.org, along with scientists and researchers throughout the world.
Another memorable experience for Azadani in Germany, he said, was meeting up with a childhood friend from Iran, whom he hadn’t seen in 12 years.
Azadani, who also plans to graduate with his bachelor’s degree from TAMU-CC in December, has his eyes on a career in the biotechnology field after he completes his educational goals.
“The biotechnology program at Del Mar has truly changed my life,” he said. “I’ve been introduced to opportunities that many students only dream of. The program and, most importantly, Dr. Hatherill and Dr. Zhang, have helped me my find my true interest and career path.”