Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good

  • Headshot of Katherine Fiocca

Katherine Fiocca

Under the supervision of Dr. Mark Ellison, I worked alongside my mentee, Nerica Normil, in the Chemistry Department, to modify an organic compound in order to deliver antibiotics into a drug-resistant bacterial colony. Our hopes were to overcome the resistance in these colonies by hiding an antibiotic on the organic compound we synthesized in lab. We worked with nano-graphene oxide, a sheet of carbon measuring one carbon atom thick.

Becoming a mentor in my lab increased my passion for my research, and I was able to learn so much more about my project by teaching my student. Working together was extremely rewarding, and I loved how passionate Nerica became about our research by the end of our two months together. Watching her become confident in the unfamiliar lab was one of my proudest moments of the summer. We will be furthering our research together in the chemistry lab during my remaining year at Ursinus.






I began research in the Chemistry Department as a sophomore at Ursinus. Dr. Mark Ellison and I began a project using nano-graphene oxide. Our goal was to use this carbon product to deliver antibiotics into E. coli, bacteria which contained a plasmid that coded for an efflux pump, which increases antibiotic resistance by pumping the antibiotic, tetracycline, out of the cytoplasm of the cell. Along with Nerica Normil, I was able to modify graphene to make it more soluble, and attach the antibiotic. We increased the solubility of our compound by adding a polyethylene glycol chain to the nano-graphene oxide ribbon. Then, we delivered this compound into the bacterial cells, and were able to see some inhibition of bacterial growth. Our goal for the future is to increase the amount of antibiotic being delivered into the bacterial cells, and prevent this antibiotic from falling off by manipulating our attachment procedure. 

Life After Ursinus

After graduation I plan to pursue my Ph.D. in Biology, with the hopes of continuing research in the areas of study that I have already been exposed to here at Ursinus.