Bourbon is much more than the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Just ask Drew Howard ‘19, a biochemistry & molecular biology major who will spend his spring semester studying the bacterial composition of bourbon as an intern at Ferm Solutions, a Danville-based company dedicated to research in the distilled spirits industry.
As part of the internship, Howard is responsible for characterizing and cataloging the different types of bacteria present in each stage of bourbon fermentation. After he uses a microscope to isolate bacteria with specific characteristics, individual cultures are sent to the University of Kentucky to be named.
In addition to contributing to the body of knowledge about bacterial growth patterns, Howard’s research can also be used for distillery quality control.
“Some places might want to have a certain bacteria, because that changes the flavor of whatever is being brewed,” he explains.
Howard is enthusiastic about the opportunity his internship provides to prepare him for a career in biological research.
“This is my first attempt at non-academic industry research,” he says. “The kind of work I do is common in many biochemistry and molecular biology labs.”
The semester-long internship is part of an ongoing collaborative research project between Ferm Solutions and Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology January Haile. This summer, Howard will continue his work at the company by working as Haile’s assistant.
An avid science student for many years, Howard says Centre’s biochemistry & molecular biology major has helped him develop an interest in the kind of research he is doing at Ferm Solutions.
“Most liberal arts schools have biology and chemistry majors, but Centre does a good job of mixing both together,” he adds.
by Carbery Campbell
March 2, 2018