FLCC awarded $141K in National Science Foundation funds for research into mushroom sugars

Finger Lakes Community College has received $141,000 in National Science Foundation grants to study methods for extracting mushroom sugars with therapeutic properties in partnership with a Henrietta company.

FLCC faculty and students will collaborate with Empire Medicinals to find the most effective way to produce complex polysaccharides, or sugars, from mycelium, the fibrous root-like parts of mushrooms that are often below ground or in trees.

Faculty member in lab coat
James Hewlett, professor of biology, is the founder of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative.

“This is a great opportunity for students to work with an industry partner and learn how to set up experiments,” said FLCC professor James Hewlett, coordinator of the college’s biotechnology program. “For the college, it could lead to more partnerships and long-term partnerships with industry.”  

Hewlett is also founder of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI), a national effort to teach scientific principles and skills through research. CCURI promotes collaboration among community colleges on projects to expand the number of students who have an opportunity to engage in research early in their higher education experience. FLCC will work on the mycelium project with faculty and students from Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pa.

Package of mushrooms
Empire Medicinals, grower of Leep Foods mushrooms, will work with FLCC on research with mushroom sugars.

The grants will enable FLCC to conduct experiments and pay four to five students as undergraduate researchers. In addition, FLCC scientists plan to learn from members of the Funguschain consortium in Europe, a global leader in developing products from mushroom byproducts.

Empire Medicinals cultivates organic mushrooms for the food and restaurant industry under the brand name Leep Foods. It currently grows the mushrooms on hardwood pellets, much as mushrooms in the wild derive nutrients from trees, explained Christopher Carter, co-founder of the company.

For this project, the company is hoping to use another growing medium: whey. Whey is a waste product of the dairy industry but rich in lactose, another kind of sugar. The goal is to grow the rootlike mushroom mycelium in the milk waste and turn it into a food additive.

“We want to show we can use this waste to create a food product, dry it into mycelial flour and use it in foods,” Carter said. The complex mushroom sugars are prebiotic, meaning they promote beneficial gut bacteria, and could be used to improve the health profile of a wide range of foods.

FLCC and MCCC researchers will conduct experiments to determine the most productive ways to grow and extract the sugars. For example, Hewlett said, they will try producing the sugars with different strains of mushrooms under varying temperatures and nutrient conditions.

“This is called ‘proof of concept,’” Hewlett explained. “A lot of startups do not have large budgets for research and development, so they partner with institutions.”

Sarad Parekh, who teaches Introduction to Biomanufacturing II as an adjunct instructor at FLCC, also works as a consultant with Empire Medicinals. He helped bring the company and the college together. Both Parekh and Carter see potential for biotechnology to grow in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region.

“There is an up-and-coming cluster of companies doing biomanufacturing in the Rochester area,” Carter said. Empire Medicinal’s focus on using biotechnology to innovate within the food industry makes sense in a region with major companies like Wegmans and LiDestri, he added. Involving local colleges is critical to build a biomanufacturing workforce. Major companies, Parekh said, “are very interested in getting students trained in this area.”

FLCC previously collaborated with Cheribundi to help the company learn whether storage conditions such as temperature and light could degrade the beneficial compounds in its tart cherry juice.

Students interested in learning more about FLCC’s biotechnology program or how to apply for a research position may contact Hewlett at James.Hewlett@flcc.edu.

FLCC reading event supports racial justice

Finger Lakes Community College will host a silent reading event in support of racial justice on the birthday of Ida B. Wells, a black journalist and activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

FLCC Pages for Peace will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 in the Arboretum and Serenity Garden on the grounds of the main campus at 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua.

Attendees are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. Restrooms will not be available due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells

The event will begin with brief opening remarks by organizers and FLCC Student Corp. President Erik DiPasquale.

Then, attendees will quietly read books, poems and other works about racism and the African-American experience written by and about people of color.

“Our plan is to sit quietly and read,” said Maureen Maas-Feary of Rochester, a professor of humanities at FLCC. “Those who would rather not attend are encouraged to join us by reading a book, poem or other work from the comfort and safety of home.” Continue reading “FLCC reading event supports racial justice”

556 FLCC students named to spring semester dean’s list

A total of 556 full- and part-time students were named to the Finger Lakes Community College dean’s list for spring 2020.

To be named to the dean’s list, students must have a 3.5 grade point average and meet other criteria as follows:

Full-time students are eligible if they are matriculated – meaning enrolled in a degree program – and achieve a 3.5 grade point average for the semester (12 or more hours of earned credit) with no grade below passing and no incompletes.

Part-time students are eligible if they are matriculated, have completed a minimum of 12 credit hours at FLCC, earn a combined total of at least 12 credit hours for a given year and achieve a 3.5 grade point average with no grade below passing and no incompletes. The student must be part-time for both semesters. The dean’s list for part-time students is compiled at the end of the spring term only.

Below are students by county and town:

Continue reading “556 FLCC students named to spring semester dean’s list”

FLCC converts summer camps to online format

Logo for FLCC STEAM campsFinger Lakes Community College has modified its STEAM summer day camps for middle schoolers by creating projects students can do at home with opportunities to share results while videoconferencing.

Kellie Gauvin, a biology professor and camp director, didn’t want to cancel because that means fewer options for kids over the summer. She tapped into the College’s expertise in online learning. FLCC has many online courses — about 80 percent of summer classes were already planned for an online before the pandemic began. FLCC faculty and staff have also experimented during the outbreak with new ways to teach and interact remotely.

The camps will be held over three weeks, from July 13 to 31, and consist of daily live meetings to discuss projects in topics such as conservation, art, technology, nutrition and athletic training. Participants can do all the projects or select the ones that most interest them.

Families can purchase access to the schedule and meetings for $15 or pay $50 for access and a materials kit. Siblings can participate but each materials kit is designed for individual use. Families can buy additional kits. Signups are online at flcc.edu/steam.

Instructor with 2 middle-schoolers
Kellie Gauvin, an FLCC biology professor and director of the College’s summer STEAM camps, works with two students in 2019. Prof. Gauvin has converted the 2020 camps to an online format.

The camps had previously been in-person day camps open to students entering grades seven through nine in the fall. Educational institutions are part of phase four of the governor’s plan to reopen New York state, making it unlikely that the camps will be able to be held in person by July.

“One of the exciting things about summer camp is the ability to share experiences, often with a new group of people. The daily meetings allow us to capture that shared experience and offer children the opportunity to learn from one another,” said Gauvin.

FLCC is partnering with local business to create virtual field trips. Each faculty member who designed a project for the camp will lead the discussion about the project, giving campers the ability to interact with local experts in a range of fields.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. Parents and students are welcome to email questions about the online program to STEAM.camp@flcc.edu.

Families that previously signed up for the in-person camps will get refunds.

Crayfish hunting and other ecology lessons amid COVID-19

Finger Lakes Community College conservation instructor John Bateman has volunteered his time giving ecology lessons and leading field trips for his hometown elementary school since his twin sons were fifth-graders there in 2011.

The pandemic closed schools in early March putting an end to those visits, but not the connection.

John has been trekking into parks and wooded areas near his home the last several weeks to record short educational videos for Village Elementary School in Hilton, Monroe County.

The videos – recorded by John with his cell phone – have become a vital tool for Village Elementary first-grade teacher Carla Heise. She has been sharing the recorded lessons with her students as she receives them, about once a week.

The elementary videos first began as demonstrations to share with his college students. As COVID-19 has closed campuses and K-12 buildings, it has opened doors for creativity and collaboration among educators at different levels. Ecology in particular can be taught at a basic level to younger children with more sophisticated lessons for college students.

In one video, John filmed himself at a local creek, modeling how to catch crayfish and other aquatic critters.

Within a day of sharing the video with students, Carla started receiving pictures showing what they had caught using the techniques John had demonstrated.  One photo shows student Lucy Smith in a puffy pink coat proudly holding a bucket filled with creek water and creatures.

“After watching the video of Mr. Bateman, Lucy insisted that we go get all of the tools to go and explore the creek,” said her dad, Jake Smith.  “We knew about where he was so we bought what we needed and went for it. Lucy had such a great time and really showed me how to do it.”

Lucy gained some bragging rights, too. According to dad, she caught seven crayfish, three fish, a few bugs and one snail.  “I only caught two crayfish,” he said.

Elementary student holding a net searching for aquatic creatures in a creek
A first-grader from Carla Heise’s class copies what she learned in one of John Bateman’s ecology videos.

Continue reading “Crayfish hunting and other ecology lessons amid COVID-19”

FLCC to Ph.D. Part 4: Open to possibilities

Man standing in archway
Nicholas Knopf ’06 earned honors for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Rochester. /Photo by Eryn Yates

Christina Knopf was a shy 17-year-old who only knew she wanted to write at the time she enrolled. Professor Sandra Camillo thought she would be a good fit for the student aide job in the college public relations office. It became the first stop on Christina’s path toward a doctorate in political communication and cultural sociology.

Her cousin, Nicholas Knopf, enrolled at FLCC to stay local while awaiting a kidney transplant then discovered his love for literature in Deborah Ferrell’s class. In 2019, he was honored for his dissertation exploring the portrayal of physical disabilities in English and American literature.

Woman at podium
Christina Knopf, a faculty member at SUNY Cortland, studies society through comic book superheroes and graphic novels.

Christina and Nick are among the alumni who credit FLCC as the springboard for careers in research. Their stories are featured in the new edition of The Laker Magazine.

Nationally, community colleges get attention for their agility in developing applied programs to meet local needs. Think of courses for wind turbine technicians at two-year schools in the Midwest and FLCC’s viticulture and wine technology degree.

It is not uncommon, however, for students who got their start at community college to pursue doctoral degrees. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that 11 percent of those who earned doctoral degrees in 2016-17 entered higher education at a community college. The proportion was highest in the health and clinical sciences in which 21.5 percent of all those who earned doctoral research degrees started at a two-year school.

Christina entered FLCC knowing only that she wanted to write. “When I was at FLCC, I had no idea that I would end up getting a Ph.D.,” she said.

Continue reading “FLCC to Ph.D. Part 4: Open to possibilities”

FLCC to Ph.D. Part 3: Studying Chernobyl

Woman in science lab
Cara Love ’05, shown at a University of Georgia lab, is earning a Ph.D. in ecology. / Photo by Beth Gavrilles

Cara Love was a homeschooler who needed a high school equivalency diploma as a bridge to college. While prepping for the state exam at Finger Lakes Community College, she found a place to begin exploring her fascination with human impacts on the natural world. Today she is studying the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on wolves.

Cara is among the  alumni who credit FLCC as the springboard for careers in research. In each case a person or program at the college was just what they needed at just the right moment.

Nationally, community colleges get attention for their agility in developing applied programs to meet local needs. Think of courses for wind turbine technicians at two-year schools in the Midwest and FLCC’s viticulture and wine technology degree.

Cover of The Laker magazine
Cara Love is one of several alumni featured in the newest edition of The Laker magazine. Click this image to read the electronic version.

It is not uncommon, however, for students who got their start at community college to pursue doctoral degrees. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that 11 percent of those who earned doctoral degrees in 2016-17 entered higher education at a community college. The proportion was highest in the health and clinical sciences in which 21.5 percent of all those who earned doctoral research degrees started at a two-year school.

Cara arrived at FLCC at age 17. Homeschooled in Naples, she quickly moved through her high school equivalency program into an eclectic mix of college classes: Wilderness Camping, Spanish, Cultural Anthropology, Business Mathematics, Foundation Drawing, Computing in the Information Age, and Biology of Man: Genetics, Evolution and Environment.

“I realized how much I loved the atmosphere at FLCC,” she said. “Some of the best teachers I’ve ever had were at FLCC. They took the time to inspire and encourage my curiosity about the world around me as well as explore my own interests and new topics.”

Continue reading “FLCC to Ph.D. Part 3: Studying Chernobyl”

FLCC to Ph.D. Part 2: This thing called math

About two years into his career teaching mathematics at FLCC, Charles Hoffman ’01 set in motion a chain of events that has advanced the development of cloaking technology.

All he did was answer a student’s question. That student, Ryan Vogt, had signed up for Charles’ class to fulfill a requirement for computer science. Ryan had hated math in high school.

Male student in front of NC State sign
Ryan Vogt ’13 is on track to earn his doctorate in mathematics from North Carolina State University this spring./Photo by Ken Martin

“He took the time to tell me a story about why math was important,” Ryan explained. “He spent a great amount of time with me.”

Ryan is now finishing up his Ph.D. in mathematics at North Carolina State University and has spent the last two summers working at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. His research has included solving problems in the development of binary electromagnetic cloaking, the science of manipulating the paths of light to make an object optically invisible.

Ryan is among the alumni who credit FLCC as the springboard for careers in research. In each case a person or program at the college was just what they needed at just the right moment.

Cover of The Laker magazine
Ryan’s story is one of several in the Winter/Spring edition of The Laker magazine. Click this image to read the electronic version.

Nationally, community colleges get attention for their agility in developing applied programs to meet local needs. Think of courses for wind turbine technicians at two-year schools in the Midwest and FLCC’s viticulture and wine technology degree.

It is not uncommon, however, for students who got their start at community college to pursue doctoral degrees. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that 11 percent of those who earned doctoral degrees in 2016-17 entered higher education at a community college. The proportion was highest in the health and clinical sciences in which 21.5 percent of all those who earned doctoral research degrees started at a two-year school.

Continue reading “FLCC to Ph.D. Part 2: This thing called math”

IC Tech alumni get nod in new book

Two alumni from the instrumentation and control technologies (IC Tech) program are featured in a new book that tells the story of Construction Robotics.

Book cover showing robot arm, hard hat
The cover of a new book about Construction Robotics.

“SAM: One Robot, a Dozen Engineers and the Race to Revolutionize the Way We Build” by Jonathan Waldman explains how Nate Podkaminer and his son-in-law, Scott Peters, developed a brick-laying robot. They call it a semi-automated mason, or SAM, for short.

Construction Robotics was the first company to work with FLCC to get status under the Start-Up New York business development program. Under the partnership, the company agreed to give FLCC’s IC Tech students internships, and if all went well, jobs.

IC Tech was launched in 2010 as an interdisciplinary technology program, coordinated by Sam Samanta, professor of physics. Sam assists each student in finding a co-op, or paid internship, with a local company that often turns into a full-time job.

Kerry Lipp ’13 enrolled in IC Tech after injuries ended his construction career. In the book he is credited with helping develop some of the custom equipment necessary for this first-of-its-kind machine. “Essentially, he put together all the crazy things Scott dreamed up,” the author writes.

Mike Oklevitch, a former Eastman Kodak chemical engineer, also enrolled in IC Tech for a career change and landed a co-op at Construction Robotics. The title of chapter 10 bears his nickname, Mortar Mike, for his work in developing a way to keep the mortar the robot uses at the right consistency to stick to the bricks.

To read a New York Times review of the book, click here.

 

FLCC secures $1.14M to expand undergrad biotech research

Finger Lakes Community College will receive $1.14 million in National Science Foundation funding to take part in a national effort to strengthen biotechnology education and encourage more youth to pursue careers in the field.

FLCC is the home base for the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI), which promotes the teaching of science through research. The National Science Foundation has previously awarded FLCC $5.8 million to develop and share its approach with community colleges across the country.

Faculty member in lab coat
James Hewlett, professor of biology, is the founder of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative

In this recent award, the National Science Foundation has granted $7.5 million to Austin Community College in Texas to lead the project. ACC will create the InnovATEBIO National Biotechnology Education Center to consolidate several biotech education projects into a national network. This network will share best practices and expand undergraduate research in biotechnology.

As a collaborator in the project, FLCC will provide training in the use of research to teach biotechnology concepts and skills.

“This latest grant is a testament to FLCC’s role as a national leader in the expansion of research opportunities for undergraduate students,” said FLCC President Robert Nye. “I congratulate our faculty and staff, led by Professor James Hewlett.”

CCURI supports Objective 4 by providing opportunities for applied learning in scientific research.

Continue reading “FLCC secures $1.14M to expand undergrad biotech research”