Student of Science
The mysteries of the ocean run deep and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota undergraduate Matthew Britten has joined the effort at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to unravel nature’s secrets through a select internship from the National Science Foundation. Under the mentorship of Mote Marine Senior Scientist and Marine Microbiology Program Director Dr. Kim Beach Ritchie, Britten furthers the institution’s potentially groundbreaking research into the rapid healing of various marine animals and their possible pharmaceutical applications.
Some species of stingray and shark possess superior wound healing abilities but the cause remains unknown. It’s a mystery for the moment, but Ritchie aims to give it a shot. No one has yet thought to study the creatures’ native bacteria for an answer, she said, but that’s what her team is doing at Mote. Working from stingray and shark samples selected by Ritchie, Britten and the rest of the team isolate and identify bacteria before analyzing the contained compounds and screening them for antibiotic production. If they’re lucky, they could find a potential tool in the fight against MRSA or other “problematic human pathogens,” said Ritchie.
Studying microbiology and genetics in the SCF biotechnology program, Britten reckons he entered the internship well prepared. “All the techniques that Dr. [Matthew] Thomas taught me, I find myself utilizing at Mote Marine,” he said. Not that it hasn’t also been a real learning experience while on the job, but more than the particular techniques he learned from Ritchie, it’s the greater experience working in a professional lab that he feels will be the big takeaway. “This is real research, not a predetermined experiment in a class,” said Britten, who is looking to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology post-graduation. “This specific internship—because it’s authentic research in an authentic laboratory setting—has prepared me for a career.”