Lab Work by Chemistry Student Sets Up Future Success Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Recent UCF graduate, Michael Greenberg ’20, is the recipient of the January Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award for his work on functionally engineered deoxyribozymes and their biomedical applications.

With an interest in the medical sciences, Greenberg dove headfirst into his research opportunity with Department of Chemistry’s Yulia Gerasimova, Ph.D, and her accompanying research group.

“A close friend of mine was involved in the lab and had so many good things to say about the experience,” said Greenberg, who graduated with a degree in Biomedical Sciences. “Since some people were graduating, he had encouraged me to reach out since I was interested. I met with Dr. Gerasimova and immediately she was open to my joining.”

For over a year, Greenberg has been in the process of creating targeted deoxyribosimes that pinpoint drug-resistant mutations in bacterium such as E. coli to help physicians in providing the proper drug treatment for their patient.

Greenberg’s focus on E. coli bacterium relates to his interest in solving a fairly common medical diagnosis; the urinary tract infection.

E.coli bacterium make up to 90% of what is found in the urinary tract in light of infection,” said Greenberg. “I was inspired to create a diagnostic test because of how common UTIs are but how difficult they are to treat, often because of antibiotic resistance.”

After many days and nights spent in the lab, Greenberg created a probe that could actively detect antibiotic resistance in the bacterium culture.

“COVID-19 impeded a lot of progress, but even so I was able to create a working probe,” said Greenberg. “Current methods of tests for UTIs take up to 72-hours for diagnosis, but even with that diagnosis it isn’t guaranteed that your medication will work. This is the problem I’m hoping to solve.”

As a future physician, Greenberg plans on exploring his options but points to clinical research as something that ignites his inner passions.

“Research really excites me,” said Greenberg. “It gives me the chance to be as creative as I am scientific. It’s really nice to be able to go into the lab with a goal, knowing you have the ability to impact the scientific community and others positively.”



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