Research

Underwater Enthusiast and Photographer

New Antimicrobials

With the advance of antimicrobial resistance, the potential of alternative sources of new drugs has gained significant support from the scientific community. Several native California plants show promise in inhibiting bacterial growth. Umbellularia californica (California Bay laurel) and Baccharis pilularis (Coyote Brush) inhibit several Gram-positive bacterial species, including Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (Carranza et al, 2015). Other species, such as Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage) and Salvia apiana (White Sage) have been historically used as decongestants (Yerba Buena Nursery, 2015) and to treat inflammation (UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, 2009) respectively.                                                                                                                                                          

Space Settlements

For decades there has been considerable interest in how to develop permanent human communities beyond Earth’s biosphere. However, with the upcoming conclusion of the International Space Station (ISS) program and the horizon of low cost Earth-to-orbit transportation, attention is once more being directed towards this possibility. Interest has mostly focused on the engineering considerations for human populations, such as the impact of gravity and radiation. Little attention has been given to the biological implications of a truly self-sufficient space settlement. From a microbiological perspective, there are a number of biological thresholds to consider. These include a consideration of the microbes required to help synthesize the required nutrients in soil, and the requirements for our own microbiota, from both a nutritional and defense standpoint.

Persistence in STEM

There is increasing interest in helping women and other underrepresented (URM) student groups succeed and persist in STEM majors.  Nationally, the number of women in STEM majors has risen.  However, URM students, and in particular URM women, are still underrepresented in STEM disciplines. As a women’s college situated in the heart of one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S., Mills is firmly committed to developing critical, scientific, and creative practices in addition to having a strong and successful track record of attracting first-generation and ethnic minority students. However, the average number of underrepresented URMs across all our STEM disciplines is 8% as compared to the college wide average of 32%.

References

Carranza, M. G., Sevigny, M. B., Banerjee, D., & Fox-Cubley, L. (2015). Antibacterial activity of native California medicinal plant extracts isolated from Rhamnus californica and Umbellularia californica. Annals of clinical microbiology and antimicrobials, 14(1), 29.

UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. (2009). Native American Uses of California Plants – Ethnobotany. Retrieved from http://arboretum.ucsc.edu/pdfs/ethnobotany_webversion.pdf

Yerba Buena Nursery. (2015). California Native Medicinal Plants. Retrieved from http://www.yerbabuenanursery.com/Medicinal_Plants.php