Dr. Caleb Fischer Brings Fresh and Timely Research to GC
Submitted on September 18, 2020
New Assistant Professor of Biology, Dr. Caleb Fischer brings with him an expertise which comes at an apt time in our world. With a focus in microbiology, Dr. Fischer is excited to bring new and timely courses to Georgetown College students.
Specifically, this semester Dr. Fischer is teaching a hands-on course titled “Tiny Earth,” which was designed by his mentor, Dr. Jo Handelsman. “It’s a hands-on learning course where students try to discover new antibiotics from soil bacteria that live in the area,” said Dr. Fischer. “It’s really interesting because it’s a course that is taught around the world and in 49 out of the 50 states. So it’s this really awesome learning collective around the world.”
Originally from small-town Indiana, Dr. Fischer completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Butler University and completed his M.S. and Ph.D. at Yale University. Prior to arriving at Georgetown College, he spent three years as a post-doc scholar at Vanderbilt University.
Early into his tenure at GC, Dr. Fischer feels as if his areas of interest fit perfectly with what students are interested in learning. “I’ve found that a lot of students have an interest in medicine, and my research specializes in the first steps of finding new antibiotics or new medical compounds from bacteria, so it’s been a real joy to introduce students to this kind of research.”
Of course, as a microbiologist, Dr. Fischer has a certain level of expertise in COVID-19-related research and is putting this expertise to use. He, along with Professor of Biology, Dr. Livingston, is currently working on getting a rapid, saliva-based testing option available on GC’s campus.
“Some of the rationale for a saliva-based test includes it being less invasive, and studies have shown that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 carry the same amount of the COVID-19 RNA in their saliva as they do deep in their nostrils,” said Dr. Fischer. “Through a quick isolation and purification of the saliva, we can then use a color indicator that represents an acidic change, which would then represent a positive case.”
Saliva-based testing is currently in the early stages of research, but Dr. Fischer and Dr. Livingston are leading the way in attempting to bring this advanced testing technique to Georgetown College.
“Another major advantage of this test is that it’s fast,” he said. “It also gives us the ability to pool samples. Instead of just testing one at a time, we can pool five to ten tests and test individuals that way.”
As a microbiologist, Dr. Fischer brings an exciting new voice to the Biology department at Georgetown College. His research-focus, along with the fascinating hands-on learning techniques he has already brought to the college, will benefit students for years to come.