OCU Scholarly Research - Dr. GraciasSeptember 29, 2010 at 2:00 PM
From time to time, the OCU website will be featuring interviews regarding the scholarly research efforts of our faculty and staff. Our featured faculty member at this time is Dr. Kiev Gracias, Assistant Professor of Biology at OCU. Dr. Gracias came to Oakland City University in the spring semester of 2009. Dr. Gracias most recent research findings’, focusing on the identification of bacterial food pathogens, are published in a 2010 issue of the Journal of Basic Microbiology. Dr. Gracias is the lead author of this work, along with co-author Dr. John L. McKillip, a professor at Ball State University. Dr. Gracias’ article can be accessed at the following link
Please tell us about your educational training.
I obtained my B.S. & M.S. from Louisiana Tech University (LTU) and my Ed.D. from Ball State University (BSU). All my degrees are in Biology, with concentrations in Bacteriology and Biotechnology.
How did you come to join the OCU faculty?
The BSU Department of Biology received an e-mail from our OCU Provost regarding an available position in Biology for Spring 2009. My research mentor, Dr. John McKillip, forwarded me the e-mail, since I was looking for teaching/research positions at the time. So, I decided to apply for the OCU job and the rest is history.
What are your latest research efforts?
My research focuses on the identification of bacterial food pathogens (particularly Bacillus cereus) using molecular diagnostic tools. B. cereus has been found to be present in rice, sauces, spices, dairy, meats, vegetables etc. It is responsible for producing both the emetic toxin (causes nausea and vomiting) and enterotoxin (causes diarrhea) in patients (infective dose 105 to 108 CFU/g). I’m currently working on a molecular diagnostic tool called “Pentaplex PCR” which will simultaneously detect five enterotoxin genes of B. cereus (hblA, hblC, hblD, nheA, and nheB). This is important especially when differentiating B. cereus from nonpathogenic Bacillus spp. from food.
It has been said that a professor’s research often carries into the classroom. How does your research work inform your teaching at OCU? How are your students involved?
I am a strong believer of “knowledge construction” through research. Updated textbook editions, “new” research projects, and modified hypotheses are a few byproducts of research. My research students engage in biochemical, serological, and molecular testing in any given semester. They use what they learn from biology theory to “connect the dots” in practicum. The opposite is also true for the practicum aspect of research helping reinforce biological theoretical concepts.
What are some of your future plans for research and teaching?
Regarding teaching, my goal is to offer a biology critical thinking and/or research design course in the near future. This would provide students with the basic tools needed to initiate their individual research projects. My future research plan is to design molecular diagnostic tools to identify other major food pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Staphylococcus spp. etc.
From your perspective, what should a student looking to find a solid biology program know about the opportunities here at OCU?
We are proud to offer three biology concentrations to prospective students: biotechnology, human biology, and environmental biology. The job possibilities are endless regarding each individual biology concentration. We also encourage students to apply to graduate programs as they near completion of their degree requirements.