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MMC Faculty-Student Study on Fecal Bacteria Garners Global Media Attention

A study by an MMC faculty-student research team on pathogens tracked indoors from NYC sidewalks has garnered international interest, with news outlets on five continents—and at least one late-night talk show host—reporting its findings.

Professor of Chemistry Alessandra Leri, Ph.D., and Biology alumna Marjan Khan ’20, who participated in the research while enrolled at MMC, examined samples of bacteria from puddle water on Upper East Side streets, the shoe soles of student volunteers, and in interior spaces.

They sought to answer questions common among New Yorkers and urban dwellers in dog-friendly cities: When a pup takes a poop, do fecal bacteria persist on sidewalks even after the mess has been cleared? Are your shoes ferrying the bacteria inside?

The study was published in the journal Indoor and Built Environment. The findings—startlingly high concentrations of fecal bacteria on shoe soles, carpets in indoor areas, and highly-trafficked building entryways—quickly struck a nerve with New York City news outlets, from Gothamist to CBS New York. National outlets followed, and comedian Stephen Colbert even mentioned the study on his late-night show.

The study was also covered by European, African, Asian, and South American news media, which presented Leri and Khan’s findings in Flemish, Spanish, German, Chinese, and French.

“The problem of fecal contamination is universal,” Leri said. “The interest this study has received really reflects people’s concern with what fecal contamination is spreading in their environment.”

In addition, she said she was pleased the media attention had highlighted the importance of faculty-student research collaborations, of which MMC’s Sciences Division has a strong track record.

“It’s wonderful that an undergraduate research study can garner this kind of attention—and a testament to the kind of close work we do at Marymount Manhattan College with our biology undergraduates,” Leri said. “We really get them out in the field doing interesting, cutting-edge research.”

See below for a running list of outlets that have covered Leri and Khan’s research.

Published: February 24, 2023