Deadline to vote for the State of Ohio microbe is Nov. 17!

Posted Nov 09, 2018

By: Aselya Sposato ’21

Vote before Nov. 17!

Otterbein University’s departments of Biology and Earth ScienceBiochemistry and Molecular BiologyCommunication, and History and Political Science are working together in a comprehensive effort to pass legislation for Ohio’s first-ever official state microbe. If passed, Ohio will be one of the few states in the U.S. to have an official state microbe. Microbes, which are microscopic organisms, can both cause and fend off infectious diseases, among other things. The microbe project, called micrOhio, is working toward increasing awareness about microbiology, while leading a collaborative service-learning project for students of the university.   Jennifer Bennett, an associate professor of biology and organizer of micrOhio, involved microbiology students and members of Otterbein’s chapter of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) in researching microbe candidates that best relate and contribute to Ohio. Communication students are leading promotional efforts to spread awareness about the project and political science students will write the legislative proposal that will be sent to the State of Ohio later this year or early next year.  “I think it’s really great getting different ideas from everybody,” Bridget Bowman, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major, said of the campuswide involvement. Bowman is the president of Otterbein’s chapter of ASM. “I love all the ideas, which are things I never would have thought of. It’s amazing, and everything is branching off each other. I think it’s really cool.” Currently, micrOhio has narrowed their candidates down to six microbes. Choices vary from microbes that help plant life, to those that help make polymers for bioplastics. Detailed information regarding each candidate can be found on micrOhio’s social media accounts: FacebookTwitter and Instagram. An election, coined the Microbe-term election, will take place Nov. 5-10 in the form of an online survey. Those hoping to participate can look to micrOhio’s social media to find the link needed to vote. Anyone throughout the state is eligible to participate.  “I believe we need a state microbe because it really promotes the importance of microbiology,” said Professor Bennett. “I think it’s really more of an educational piece for the public to realize what microbes are doing for us and how important they are in our lives.” The idea behind micrOhio began this past summer, when Bennett attended the ASM’s national conference in Atlanta. While there, she heard about New Jersey’s efforts to pass legislation for a state microbe and was inspired to bring the project back to Otterbein.  Wyatt Gardner, a junior environmental science and sustainability major and political science minor, is helping write the legislation for the microbe. He credits his education at Otterbein with preparing him for the responsibility of taking on this project. “When I think of my education here at Otterbein, I think it gets you used to pushing yourself into the type of professional interactions you have to have,” said Gardner. “I’m most excited to see how the actual legislation does. If it passes, that would be phenomenal. I want to do good work with these people and bring a historical win for Otterbein.” Sokjita Hout, a first-year public relations and journalism and media communication major and public relations officer for ASM, runs the social media accounts for micrOhio. She said she’s grateful for the opportunities the project has exposed her to and appreciates being able to learn about material outside of her major.  “We’re all coming from different departments and majors, and we’re teaching stuff to each other every single day,” said Hout. “If I didn’t take the opportunity, I wouldn’t have met the people I know now. I’m learning more about how laws get passed and about microbiology. It makes me so happy to be able to learn and exchange information with everyone.” Learn about the candidates on micrOhio’s social media accounts, then cast your vote before Nov. 17 online