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Alabama State University Program Creates International Collaboration

Dr. Shree Singh, professor at Alabama State and director of the university’s Center for NanoBiotechnology, is the host for the guests from Turkey.Dr. Shree Singh, professor at Alabama State and director of the university’s Center for NanoBiotechnology, is the host for the guests from Turkey.

Thousands of miles separate Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala., from Ege University in Izmir, Turkey, but scientific research is bridging the gap between the two universities.

This summer, two Turkish scientists from Ege traveled to ASU for the first time to learn new nanotechnology techniques at ASU’s Center for NanoBiotechnology Research (CNBR). The summer program is part of the center’s global joint effort to create intercontinental research and educational collaborations with academic institutions and private industries. Participating countries include China, India, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Japan and Singapore.

The scientists, who speak very little English, are helping to eliminate foodborne bacteria and developing a drug delivery system to prevent antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Guwven Ozdemir, professor of microbiology and co-head of the Biology Department at Ege University, is working on producing drugs that dissolve slowly when taken. When available, the time-released drugs can reduce the amount of medication patients consume for common conditions such as inflammation and diabetes. One drug has already been produced, and the joint project is seeking a commercial partnership to conduct clinical trials.

“I look forward to seeing the recent developments and new techniques making research collaborations in CNBR and teaching new methods regarding nanobiotechnology to our researchers upon my return to Ege University,” says Ozdemir in a translated written statement.

Dr. Ihsan Yasa, associate professor of microbiology at Ege University, will test new nanomaterial that can be used to kill foodborne bacteria. His research will aid in the development of antibiotics to treat salmonella, E. coli or other bacteria that have become increasingly drug resistant.

“I think the center and its resources would provide the best path for me to learn about the new emerging areas of nanobiotechnology with a focus on nanogenomics,” says Yasa, also in a translated written statement. “CNBR helps me to visualize the idea of performing world-class research; it assists me in integrating research between ASU and Ege University and will act as an enhancer in developing new programs in nanobiotechnology.”

Ozdemir and Yasa’s three-month visit was arranged by ASU and largely funded by the Turkish government.

“It brings our research to the global level,” says Dr. Shree R. Singh, director of CNBR.

Established in 2007, CNBR houses about 25 people, including administrative staff, faculty, students and post-doctoral students. Its state-of-the-art instrumentation is comparable to that at other major research institutions and includes a confocal microscope, real-time PCR (Vii7), FACS, a scanning electron microscope, DNA sequencer, automated DNA extractor, colony counter, gel documentation system, Bioplex, FT-IR and a zetasizer.

About 60 students have graduated from the center with doctorates, and more than 12 students have graduated with master’s degrees. The center also provides work-study and internship opportunities for undergraduate students and hosts a summer program for high school students. The internships allow students to study abroad and learn about global advancements in scientific research—an opportunity they may not have had otherwise.

“They weren’t able to do it before because we didn’t have the kind of reach and collaboration,” says Singh, who has been with ASU for 20 years. “But now they can go abroad and learn about the new science happening on the global scale.”

Post-doctoral research fellow Stacie Fairley took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad last year during a summer internship in France. The Mississippi native learned some basic French to overcome the language barriers and quickly adapted to the culture. Although international research practices tend to be more liberal with fewer constraints than U.S. regulations and standards, Fairley found great similarities working with her French research partners.

“Through science and research, there’s commonality,” she says.

Her international experience has given Fairley a greater appreciation for the scientific advancements being made globally and in her own backyard.

“HBCUs aren’t usually known for being research institutions, but we’re becoming recognized for our research,” she says. “It gives me a sense of pride when other scientists come here and return saying, ‘That small university has so much going on, and they’re doing so much with what they have.’”

Fairley and Ozdemir are exploring joint research opportunities in the future. Fairley was also offered a position in France working with bio-chips and immune responses. Her new job begins Sept. 1.

“We’ve come a long way from the old science center,” says Fairley, who obtained her undergraduate degree at ASU. “I’m just floored with happiness and pride that I’ve been a part of it.”

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