George Albert (Bert) Cortina has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the highest academic honor awarded to liberal arts students in the United States. Membership selection is based on intellectual honesty and curiosity, careful scholarship, creativity, good character, and a commitment on the life of the mind. While members of the election committee do consider a candidate's GPA during their deliberations, they give great weight to faculty recommendations to determine the depth and breadth of candidate's academic endeavors.
Bert's election was undoubtedly based in part on his interdisciplinary interests in computer science, biology, chemistry, and medicine. Bert's research at William & Mary has been with Professor Mark Forsyth in the Department of Biology, where Bert's study of the human pathogenic bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, involves examining the ability of this gastric ulcer and gastric cancer-causing bacterium to invade stomach epithelial cells in the lab. Bert is using mutant strains of the pathogen to determine if their ability to survive inside human cells is affected by mutations in various bacterial sensory-response pathways. Bert is in the process of applying to medical school where he hopes to conduct bench research, but also to study medical informatics and design models of the systems he is studying.