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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642

Community Breakfast Lecture Describes How
URI Oceanographers Are Developing
Biosensors to Detect Biological Contamination

Narragansett, R.I. -- April 7, 2003 -- Over the last year, the news media have reported about the potential of biowarfare and bioterrorist attacks and the need for effective warning systems of such events. Instruments designed to detect pathogens or indicators of contamination are called biodetectors, or biosensors. But how do these instruments work? Are they reliable? What are the different types of detectors and what are they used for?

The public is invited to attend a free Community Breakfast Lecture, sponsored by Friends of Oceanography, to be held on Thursday, April 17, at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Institute Building on the URI Bay Campus. The lecture, "Building a New Kind of Warning System: Recent Developments in Biodetectors and Bacteria Identification Tools" is part of a series featuring the research of URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) students. The speaker will be biological oceanography graduate student Heather Saffert of Narragansett.

Saffert will try to answer many questions people have about these instruments as she provides an introduction to the field of biodectors. These instruments have proven to be both difficult and expensive to develop. However, substantial progress has been made in the last decade due to new emerging technologies and increased funding in biotechnology. Saffert will also describe her thesis project on developing a biodectector of sewage contamination in coastal waters.

A native of Minnesota, Saffert attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and attained a liberal arts degree with honors in biology. After graduating, she moved to Newport and worked in environment consulting at Science Applications International Corporation. In 2000, Ms. Saffert decided to return to school and entered the doctoral program at GSO. Her major professor is biological oceanographer Dr. David Smith. She also works under the guidance of chemical oceanographer, Dr. Alfred Hanson. Together, they have formed an interdisciplinary team to develop a new submersible instrument, the BioAnalyzer, to detect indicator bacteria and monitor water quality for shell fishing and recreational purposes.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Coffee and muffins will be served. For more information, call Friends of Oceanography at (401) 874-6642.

Friends of Oceanography is a community-based membership organization established in 1986 to support the educational and public programs of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. Friends provides financial support of fellowships for GSO students, and other research, education, and outreach activities. The organization also helps sponsor a variety of special events such as oceanography lecture series, open houses at the Bay Campus, The JASON Project, and the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

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