Robert Garner

Departmental Grant
University of the Incarnate Word

The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio serves a student population that includes many first-generation college students and a student body that is 56 percent Hispanic and 61 percent female. Its department of chemistry and biochemistry offers undergraduate degrees, with 10 faculty members and 88 students majoring in the two fields in 2016. Approximately one-third of them apply each year to participate in the summer research program, funded through the Welch grant.

In 2017, the summer program hosted 12 students working with faculty members. One group, under Dr. Garner’s guidance, researched light-activated antimicrobial cancer drugs. Students in Rachell Booth’s laboratory purified BLINaC anitbodies from rabbit serum for use in cellular locationization studies in mice brains in an effort to unravel its role. The third group worked with professor Betsy Leverett investigating unicellular species of algae to determine their ability to interfere with bacterial quorum communication signals. Such a property could lead to new antibacterial treatments. However, like so much of scientific research, neither of the strains examined appeared particularly effective in this role.

 “While less exciting for the students involved in the project, the findings still provided an important lesson,” Dr. Garner notes. “Sometimes research leads to dead ends or disproves the theory we were testing. Yet researchers have to glean what they can from these ‘failures’ and use that to inform/improve the next experiment.

  “The Welch Foundation has been critical to building and expanding our program,” Dr. Garner adds. “This is often the student’s first experience with full-time research. It greatly enriches the educational opportunity we can offer them.”