One of the 'most awesome' labs in America is right here at UA


Where is one of the "most awesome college labs" in the country? According to Popular Science, awesomeness can be found at The University of Akron in the lab of microbiologist/geologist Hazel Barton.

"PopSci" went searching for the country's coolest, strangest and most dangerous college labs and found Barton and her undergraduate students doing what they do best – cave-dwelling research that ranges from discovering clues to bacteria growth and their resistance to antibiotics to understanding how sinkholes are formed. In its rankings, PopSci factored in what it saw as groundbreaking research, undergraduate access and "sheer awesomeness."

Hazel Barton, UA associate professor of microbiology and geology, views formations in the Land of the Lost, a room in Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico. Barton and her research team collected bacteria from the deepest part of Lechuguilla, which is the deepest cave in the United States. © Max Wisshak.

Barton's lab is in "awesome" company, with rocket scientists at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab, structural engineers at Texas Tech's famous National Wind Institute (think two-by-fours of wood being slammed against brick walls at more than 200 mph to judge hurricane or tornado wind speed) and particle physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's IceCube Lab at the South Pole.

While Barton's campus-based lab in UA's Auburn Science and Engineering Center features the microscopes and Petri dishes you would expect, Barton's global lab takes research to new levels, plunging herself and her students as deep as 1,600 feet underground. Barton's internationally recognized discovery of antibiotic-resistant superbugs means her students follow her footsteps into the depths of caves anywhere from Brazil to New Mexico's remote, virtually untouched Lechuguilla Cave. Barton and her team collect and study bacteria strains that live on sedimentary rock and minerals that have been around for at least four million years.

Barton's work has caught PopSci's eye before. Her lab was awarded the same honor by the magazine in 2011 during her time at Northern Kentucky University. Other "awesome labs" include North Carolina State University, University of Florida, New Mexico Tech, Colorado State University & Colorado College, the University of Tennesee-Knoxville, and Missouri University for Science & Technology.

See Popular Science online for more details.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or