Luther College student researches biosafety bateria

August 31, 2017

Biosafety level 1 bacteria are often used for research because they are generally harmless to humans. Alexander Schaeffer, Luther College sophomore of New Prague, Minnesota, is researching outer membrane protein expression in biosafety level 1 bacteria as part of his summer research at the college.

Schaeffer, the son of Jan and Scott Schaeffer, of New Prague, is a 2016 graduate of New Prague Senior High School. He is majoring in biology at Luther.

“As a biology major, I will be dealing a lot with bacteria, genes and proteins these next three years. Having this very personal hands-on experience will allow me to better understand new concepts, labs and articles that I face in the future. In my opinion, although book learning is helpful, there is nothing more educational and rewarding as hands-on learning,” said Schaeffer.

Schaeffer is working with Dana Talsness, Luther visiting assistant professor of biology, on the ongoing project “Examining Outer Membrane Protein Expression in Biosafety Level 1 Bacteria.”

The purpose of their research is to find a species of bacteria that, when placed in various environmental conditions, cause different genes to be turned on or off affecting the proteins that are produced. The procedure created from this research can be widely used in colleges, universities and high schools to teach students about the role genes play in the production of various proteins.

The group’s collaboration is funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Luther’s Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther’s academic core.

The results of the project will be presented at Luther’s Student Research Symposium in 2018.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: