By Rachel Lea
Jack Ganley, a postdoctoral fellow from Princeton University, was invited by the College to present his research to the biology department in the physics building, room 101 on Nov. 11. Ganley is the third of four speakers scheduled to present this semester as part of the Biology Seminar Series.
“The purpose of the Biology Seminar Series is to invite speakers so that our community — students, faculty, etc. — can be exposed to a wide variety of research,” explained Zaar Sarwar, a biology professor and the coordinator of the program. “We bring in speakers in different careers — different types of industries — so that gives students and faculty a wide perspective of what’s going on in the scientific world right now.”
Sarwar originally met Ganley as an undergraduate while she was a postdoctoral scientist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science. They collaborated on projects and even published a paper together. They have since kept in touch, and Sarwar thought that Ganley would be a great speaker to share his current work.
Ganley’s research specifically focuses on the chemical interactions between phytoplankton and Roseobacter, a group of aquatic bacteria. Roseobacter usually live in a symbiotic relationship with phytoplankton. When the plankton begin to die, however, the bacteria will release chemicals that increase the death rate.
Ganley wants to know why and how this occurs. When asked how he got interested in this type of research, Ganley said that he was curious about the molecules that bacteria could produce and described them as beautiful.
“It was very interesting to me why [the bacteria] were spending so much energy to make these intricate, small molecules,” said Ganley. “Figuring out what they could actually do in whatever ecosystem they were in was a big driving force for my interests.”
Students can either attend the seminars in person or through Zoom. Some students are required to come to earn credit for their independent research. Others attend as part of an extra credit assignment given to them by their professor.
“I have, so far, attend all of the seminars this semester,” said Omar Halim, a sophomore biology major. “I attended all of them due to the topics seeming to be interesting and furthermore to satisfy my requirements for my independent research credit.”
A few students, however, come out of pure curiosity.
“It really piqued my interest,” said Maddy Murphy, a freshman biology major. “It was like, ‘Wow, you got these professors from other universities doing really cool research.’ It’s so fascinating to see whatever topic they’re interested in.”
Students were also invited to have lunch with Ganley before his presentation. Lunch consisted of pizza, salad, soda, and cookies, and topics ranged from Ganley’s research to hobbies outside the scientific field.
“The really interesting thing about going to the seminar lunches — and not just the presentations — is that we, as students, get to ask more questions about the professor’s personal journeys,” said Murphy. “It’s really nice, because that’s not the kind of information that I can get from a presentation. It’s been very helpful for my friends and I.”
Students having lunch with Ganley (Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea / Correspondent)
Along with making them excited about his field, Ganley hopes that his presentation inspired students to set high goals for themselves, despite attending a small college.
“I started at a really small university, and [the College] is an excellent school,” said Ganley. “People here can go on to do great things, and hopefully I can motivate people to do that.”
Although the Zoom option made it difficult to determine the turnout of Ganley’s presentation, students agree that it, along with the previous seminars, have expanded their understanding of the biological field.
“Attending the seminars has provided me with a wealth of knowledge that allows me to understand other biological topics that I may generally not pay enough attention to,” Halim said. “Overall, I find them to be conducive to my own knowledge as an individual interested in the concept of research in Biology.”
Other students believe that the Biology Seminar Series has made a positive impact on their overall lives as students.
“It’s just been a wonderful experience,” said Murphy. “A lot of times, our schedules are so busy, but [the College] offers so many wonderful events. This is one of the things that my friends and I were able to go to, so it’s really awesome to actually be able to take advantage of the opportunities that [the College] offers.”
Students are encouraged to attend the final seminar of the semester on Friday, Dec. 9 at 12:30 pm on Zoom or in person. The speaker will be Jessica Hekman,the founder of the Functional Dog Collaborative, a support group for dog breeders. Her presentation will be on canine behavioral genetics; all majors are welcomed.