1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Moving the field forward: the role of writing in science at Transylvania

The following feature article appears in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Third + Broadway magazine, scheduled for delivery in June. Mark Sirianno ’19 remembers his eureka moment. Alone in the lab one evening, a few years into his work with Associate Professor of Biology Paul Duffin, he opened the incubator and found that the Neisseria sicca bacteria, which scientists heretofore had deemed immutable, had, in fact, transformed. They had, Sirianno explains, “taken up DNA from their environment and incorporated it into their genome.”  In a world in which Neisseria gonorrhoeae is becoming resistant to antibiotics, portending catastrophic epidemics, any new light on Neisseria bacteria could be helpful — particularly, as Sirianno notes, when 75% of the human population carries non-pathogenic Neisseria in their nasopharynx (the cavity behind the nose). “Every time you take antibiotics,” Sirianno explains, “it makes those Neisseria (in the nasopharynx) antibiotic resistant. If they can exchange DNA with the pathogenic version, it’s no wonder gonorrhoeae is becoming resistant so quickly and so efficiently.” Sirianno is helping to prove that Duffin’s thesis is correct, that this nonpathogenic strain is subject to “inter-species genetic transfer.” Yet who would know about the discovery or the broader implications if the researchers failed to write up their work clearly and concisely, and, ultimately, craft an abstract compelling enough to be accepted for presentation at a conference among peers? “The process of science isn’t done until you’ve communicated it,” says Sarah Bray, professor of