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Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

Enhancing lives through learning, discovery and innovation

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Research Briefs: Quick Looks at Research in the Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

Bailey College Research Briefs



(Faculty mentors highlighted in bold italics.)

Alpine Plants in Yosemite


Alpine Plants in Yosemite BIOLOGICAL SCIENCESWHO: (From left) Ben Sherman, Maddie Windsor, Eda McColl, Rachel Friesen, Dena Grossenbacher, Brooke Wallasch.

WHAT: A research team from Cal Poly is resurveying historic vegetation monitoring plots in Yosemite National Park to understand how Yosemite’s alpine plant communities are responding to climate change

WHY: Temperatures are warming more quickly in alpine environments compared to lowland areas and alpine plant communities may be a proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to the impacts of climate change.

WHAT’S NEXT: “We are in the midst of analyzing the data and plan to share our results at upcoming conferences.” (Friesen)

THE WOW: “We hope to understand how alpine plant communities have shifted over the last 30 years and use this information to improve model predictions about the future fate of these unique plant communities.” (Friesen)

Data-Informed Academic Rigor


Data-Informed Academic Rigor STATISTICSWHO: Nicole Bass, Danielle Sisso, Immanuel Williams (in photo below).

WHAT: This research leverages culturally relevant data to deepen the grasp of analysis of variance, providing a dynamic web-based learning tool for educators and students.

WHY: “Williams' vision, shaped by Cal Poly's academic excellence, fosters innovative teaching strategies. Collaboration with
Cal Poly Scholars has refined his approach for broader educational impact.” (Williams)

WHAT’S NEXT:  The research collaborators are expanding into projects such as "Plot for Shots," analyzing basketball legends, crafting guides on application programming interface creation and examining long-term demographic shifts.

THE WOW: Bolstered by the acumen of the student researchers, Williams' early doubts were transformed into a collaborative force with the undergraduates, elevating the data science pedagogy and igniting student potential.

Insulated Solar Electric (ISE) Cooking



WHO: Peter Schwartz, more than 100 students and partners in Africa, India, Nepal and Fiji.

WHAT: The researchers are developing Insulated Solar Electric (ISE) Cooking at Cal Poly. In 2023, Schwartz helped collaborators in Africa and Asia build ISECookers in communities where biomass cooking is common.

WHY: Biomass cooking creates deforestation, pollution and safety hazards for those (mostly females) gathering fuel. More people die from indoor air pollution than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

WHAT’S NEXT: Working prototypes are being built in a factory in Kathmandu, Nepal. Two current challenges include repeating the Nepal success in African countries and studying adoption and dissemination.

THE WOW: “It's been amazing working with so many students and working across cultures.” (Schwartz)

Water Intake and Glucose


WHO: Doris Cheung, Carson Crouch, Annie Hatzenbeler, Darren Lin, Sean Ryan, Adam Seal, Annalise Vargas, Olivia Wagner.

WHAT: “Numerous studies show associations between water intake and glucose regulation. We will manipulate water intake and track blood glucose using continuous glucose monitoring. No study has tracked blood glucose in free living adults while water intake was manipulated.” (Seal)

WHY: The global prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing. Non-modifiable factors such as genetics, age and sex play a role, several lifestyle factors contribute to prevalence rates, one of which may be water intake.

WHAT’S NEXT: An effort has been made to prevent pathological hyperglycemia using medications, some of which are costly. However, lifestyle continues to be a focus of current research.

Antibiotic Cross-Resistance

Biological Sciences/Microbiology

antibioticsWHO: Libby Hodge, Haley Russell, Jennifer VanderKelen.

WHAT: “We are investigating the effects adaptation to a food preservative has on antibiotic sensitivity in Pseudomonas fluorescens and Escherichia coli, specifically if there is any cross-resistance between diacetyl and antibiotics with different cellular targets.” (Russell)

WHY: Antibiotic resistance is an extensive issue and the group's research contributes to the understanding of cross-resistance through exploring another selective pressure that can make bacteria less vulnerable to antibiotics.

WHAT'S NEXT: The team has demonstrated that diacetyl-adaptation results in cross-resistance to various antibiotics. They will next investigate the resistance mechanism through whole genome sequencing and efflux assays.

THE WOW: “Antibiotic resistance is a very daunting idea because it threatens our ability to stay healthy. A well-rounded view of how it develops will help us find new ways to fight it.” (Russell)

Effects of infection on fish


fish under microscopeWHO: Zoe Bixby, Robert Dohrmann, Libby Hodge, Serena Jenson, Lena Kimura, Adam Marin, Gita Kolluru, Alejandra Yep.

WHAT: A collaborative team of behavioral ecologists and microbiologists examines the effects of infection with Mycobacterium, a common but untreatable infection of fishes. Their labs used the outbreak as an opportunity to study the effects on fish behavior, physiology and morphology.

WHY: The researchers predict that Mycobacterium infection alters traits in fish. Their findings may contribute to understanding host-pathogen interactions in a model system and may support protocols for diagnosing aquatic mycobacterial disease.

WHAT’S NEXT: “We look forward to building our sample size and analyzing data to determine the effects of infection on traits important for fitness in fish. We are excited to produce joint publications across labs.” (Kimura)

THE WOW: “Our interdisciplinary study joins physiologists, behavioral ecologists and microbiologists, yielding a unique opportunity to collaborate across several fields of undergraduate research at Cal Poly.” (Kimura)

Sustainable Land Initiative


WHO: Nicholas Babin, Claire Balint, Yiwen Chiu, Charlotte Decock, Lynn Hamilton, Matthew Haberland, Michael Haungs, Peter Herder, Michael McCullough, Moses Mike, Erin Pearse, Yamina Pressler and Cal Poly students.

WHAT: Develop a system for increasing farmers' adoption rate of climate-smart agriculture by removing impediments (lack of funding, training, equipment, materials) and provide support with the transition, including automated reporting and a peer-to-peer community of practice.

WHY: Agriculture is a readily decarbonized sector, and nature-based solutions for sequestration provide for it to become carbon negative. As a major agricultural center, this makes it a key climate solution for California.
WHAT’S NEXT: “We are expanding the program to other counties on the Central Coast, elsewhere in California, and into other agriculturally-oriented states.” (Pearse)

THE WOW: “By digitalizing and templatizing processes, we reduced planning timelines from eight months to three days and implementation timelines from three years to six weeks, greatly increasing the speed of decarbonization.” (Pearse)

sustainable land initiative

E. coli CFT073 Motility


E. coliWHO: Kelsey Cliburn, Sophia Brooks, Marissa Young, Brooke Imamoto, Kassandra Gonzalez, Alejandra Yep.

WHAT: Researchers are examining uropathogenic E. coli CFT073 and various mutants to establish their ability to swim and/or swarm, since motility is an important part of urinary tract infection (UTI) pathogenesis. Individual bacteria can swim in liquid but swarming is a coordinated group movement across solid surfaces.

WHY: Motility is essential for UTI strains in order to colonize the bladder or kidneys. Swarming motility is particularly important in catheter-associated UTIs and it is unclear what factors are essential to coordinate swarms.

WHAT’S NEXT: “We have established which of our mutant strains are incapable of swarming, and now are looking to uncover genetic factors that influence swarming motility without impacting swimming ability.” (Cliburn)

THE WOW: “Bacteria’s ability to swarm allows them to move across catheters and infect the bladder, causing UTIs in catheterized patients. We aim to understand what bacterial factors are needed for swarming.” (Cliburn)

Data to Impact


data to impact graphWHO: Lauren Taylor, Edy Reynolds, Payton Swanson, Emily Robinson.

WHAT: In collaboration with People’s Kitchen of San Luis Obispo (SLO), the researchers digitized 5-year meal count records, created a data workflow and designed an interactive dashboard for visualization and trend tracking using Google Suites to allow client ownership.

WHY: People’s Kitchen serves daily meals to address food insecurity. They often observe fluctuations in meal counts but did not have digital mechanisms to identify factors associated with these shifts: weather, holidays, serving group, etc.

WHAT’S NEXT: “We will be creating the dashboard using RShiny, an R package for interactive web applications. Additionally, we hope to employ the use of predictive modeling, to provide deeper insights.” (Reynolds)

THE WOW: “The board of directors utilized our dashboard to provide summaries to their 2023 serving groups. We participated in serving meals.” (Reynolds)

The Future of Aquaculture


aquaculture research

WHO: Mila Berntsen, Gillian Douglas, Kevin Johnson, Tatum Schneider, Greg Schwartz.

WHAT: The group has created a Mobile Recirculating Aquaculture System (MRAS) built from scratch by Schneider and Bernsten. It will be used to grow seaweed, conduct experiments, demonstrate the steps/importance of aquaculture and contribute to the public knowledge of aquaculture systems.

WHY: Aquaculture is an extremely important part of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences' goals of sustainable fisheries and supporting the blue economy. Seaweed is a superhero in our changing climate.

WHAT’S NEXT: “Other organisms (oysters, abalone) will be added in the future. We are excited to relate this to the central valley student's familiarity with agriculture and increase ocean literacy through aquaculture.” (Schneider)

THE WOW: The MRAS will be used for both Cal Poly students and outreach programs. This was funded by the Santa Rosa Creek Foundation and will be utilized on campus as well as at partner high schools.

Kellet's Whelk Microbiome


microbiomeWHO: Benjamin Daniels (in photo below), Jean Davidson, Chanel De Smet, Pat Fidopiastis, Jenna Nurge, Olivia Sleeper, Crow White.

WHAT: Kellet’s whelk perivitelline fluid (PVF) sustains developing embryos. PVF microbiome analysis revealed a diverse array of bacteria expressing genes related to host-microbe interactions, symbiosis, quorum sensing and antibiotic biosynthesis.

WHY: “We hypothesized that PVF protects developing embryos from infection. In support, we revealed that microbes in PVF express antibiotic biosynthesis genes. Our findings have broad public health implications.” (Fidopiastis)

WHAT’S NEXT: “Our gene expression studies inspired plans to cultivate bacteria from PVF and test for the ability to produce antibiotics. We plan to characterize antibiotics  to determine their novelty.” (Fidopiastis)

THE WOW: PVF is an untapped environment for discovery of novel antibiotics. This work brought together a team with diverse interests, from marine biology, conservation, microbiology, and health professions.


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