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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications

Reed College senior Alex Barron awarded American Society for Microbiology grant

PORTLAND, OR (May 13, 2005) - Reed College senior Alex Barron was recently awarded the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Corporate Activities Program Student Travel Grant to present his thesis in Atlanta, Georgia.  

The $500 grant was awarded to a maximum of 160 students who are ASM members. The grant funds travel to the largest microbiology conference in the country, the 105 th General Meeting of the ASM, where students will present their posters from June 4-7 of this year. Alex will travel to the conference to present his thesis on E. coli with Reed College biology professor Jay Mellies, who recently received a National Institute of Health grant for his continuing research on the E. coli strain known as enteropathogenic Escherichia coli.

Alex explains his thesis as an effort " to find an ethical and effective animal model that can be used to study infection of the intestinal pathogen enteropathogenic E. coli or EPEC." With this ethical concern in mind, Alex wrote about the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, an organism only one millimeter long.   As he explains, "I know, equating worms with people seems like a silly idea, but there are quite a few molecular similarities between C. elegans and humans."

Alex's study is a remarkably important one considering the devastating ramifications of E. coli in many parts of the world.   As Alex explains, " EPEC is a major cause of diarrheal illness in the developing world and causes between 2 and 5 million deaths each year in children under five years of age alone." Alex's thesis could become an integral part of efforts to learn more about E. coli , and could aid in the significant worldwide fight against its harmful effects.

Students applying for the ASM Corporate Activities Program Student Travel Grant are evaluated and selected based on a review of their abstract submission, and a consideration of its scientific quality. Only about 25% of those who apply for the grant receive it. This year, nearly 700 students submitted applications for the 160 grants.

For more information on the Corporate Activities Program Student Travel Grant, please visit the ASM website at .

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Reed College
Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit