Wet Lab Research


Staphylococcal Genomics and Adaptation

Dr. Smyth is currently working on the genomics of the Staphylococci to reveal aspects of how they adapt to a variety of different hosts and environments. She’s particularly interested in the microbiology of the built environment and the types of Staphylococci found therein.


Role of mobile DNA in Staphylococcal evolution

Dr. Smyth studies mobile DNA such as pathogenicity islands and ICE elements and their contribution to the evolution of the bacteria.

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Metagenomics of Environmental Bacteria

Dr. Smyth is currently involved in several metagenomics projects with undergraduate researchers, looking at the microbiome of our campus. This work is conducted as part of a classroom-based undergraduate research experience.


Sustainability in the Lab


Developing sustainable practices in the lab

Dr. Smyth is focused on making the lab more sustainable by using less plastics. To read more about her research click the link below.


Pedagogical Research

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Civic and scientific literacy in STEM

Dr. Smyth is engaged in research to determine ways to improve student literacy and engagement with civic issues. She is also research the impact of peer-led learning in the classroom and lab on student engagement with STEM.

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Incorporating Authentic Research into the Microbiology Curriculum

Dr. Smyth’s goal is to incorporate genomics into the microbiology teaching lab class and to student source my research.


Dr. Smyth is a member of SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities)

“SENCER courses and programs strengthen student learning and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by connecting course topics to issues of critical local, national, and global importance.

“Students and faculty report that the SENCER approach makes science more real, accessible, “useful,” and civically important.

“SENCER improves science education by focusing on real world problems, and extends the impact of learning across the curriculum to the broader community and society. We do this by developing faculty expertise in teaching “to” basic, canonical science and mathematics “through” complex, capacious, often unsolved problems of civic consequence. Using materials, assessment instruments, and research developed through SENCER, faculty members design curricular projects that connect science learning to real world challenges.

“SENCER uses methods and strategies derived from existing knowledge concerning undergraduate STEM education to ensure both STEM learning and curricular reforms are durable. John Bransford, a member of the Board on Science Education of the National Academies and Mifflin Professor of Education at the University of Washington, claims that SENCER is ‘bringing to life the recommendations we made in How People Learn.’”

Courses at The New School

In this course we will investigate the role that human activity can play in the ecological and evolutionary processes that generate, maintain, and perturb biodiversity in urban and rural, biotic and abiotic environments. Students will be introduced to contemporary ecology practices including computer-based simulations, statistics and modeling, as well as modern microbiological molecular and sequencing approaches. Ecosystem structure and processes in a variety of habitats, including soils, oceans, and the human gut as well as ethical considerations of sustainability, bioremediation and environmental justice will be reviewed to provide the foundational knowledge for an authentic four-week research project investigating the microbiome of the urban environment. Concepts will be reinforced with in-class assignments, case studies and discussions and learning evaluated by quizzes, laboratory write-ups, team projects, discussions of the primary literature, and in-class exams


Though most bacteria in buildings are friendly, forming the microbiome of the building, a small minority are pathogens, capable of causing disease in humans. In this authentic research course, students will join the research team of Prof. Smyth, and tackle questions regarding how pathogenic bacteria can reside and survive in buildings such as: Is the type of material important in determining how long a bacterium can stick to a surface? Are some types of bacteria stickier than others? Are chemicals used in buildings driving the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria? Students will engage with the literature of antibiotic resistance research; learn about local citizen science projects, government-driven, national and global efforts to combat resistance; and finally, having conducted research and generated data, present their findings in a public forum to other scientists. The course involves isolating and characterizing antibiotic-resistant bacteria colonizing the campus, using a range of classical and next-generation microbiological techniques and correlating these findings with metagenetics, a novel technology that allows the researcher to sample all DNA at a site. Throughout, students will document their progress in online laboratory notebooks, participate in weekly lab meetings and discussions of the literature, conduct and troubleshoot experiments, and finally present their work in poster format.

To see the sampling sites from the Spring 2019 Class, click here.


In this project-based seminar, we focus on the development of the toilet and its impact on sanitation and public health from the earliest biblical accounts to the present day and beyond. Class discussions will draw on news articles, blogs, and selections from scientific papers, and labs will contribute to the instructor's microbiological research investigating the impact of human activity on New York water bodies and ecosystems. We will approach access to toilets as a social justice issue both as a public health threat as well as a threat to public safety, particularly that of women. Students will learn about how toilet design and use differs across our globe according to cultural, economic, and political differences. Lastly, students will learn about current developments in improving sanitation and toilet access and how intrepid and creative individuals are developing ways to make money from poop. Assignments will include weekly reflective blogs, laboratory activities, and a collaborative project to design and market concept toilets that are aesthetically pleasing, affordable for low-income communities, and minimize their impact on planetary health. At the end of the course we will assess how this course has affected your perception of how toilets have impacted humans from the perspectives of public health, social justice, aesthetics and design.

Student Research Projects


Do antimicrobial Paints do what they say they do on the tin?

Mercy College student Natalie Vegas presented her poster “Do Antimicrobial Paints Do What They Say They Do on the Tin?” at the American Society for Microbiology Conference this year.

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Isolating resistant staphylococcus from hand dryers in an urban college

Mercy College alumn Janelly Eralte presented her poster “Isolating Resistant Staphylococcus From Hand Dryers in an Urban College?” at the American Society for Microbiology Conference this year.


Sequencing the Smoke: The Unseen Microbial Hazards of Vaping

Students Kristoff Misquitta, Michelangelo Pagan and Rita Chen of the Urban Barcode Project won best poster for their research on Juuls and the hazards of vaping.