Jordan Banks Click here to go back

School: Metro Academic and Classical High School

Post secondary plans: Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Lab: The Galburt Lab Mentor: Eric Galburt

Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Project Description: Determining the effects of the transcription factor CarD on transcription initiation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Favorite part about SF:Learning about subjects in depth and performing hands-on experiments that I would not have been able to learn about or experience otherwise in high school.

How has SF modtivated you: SF further spurred my interest in the sciences and engineering. It taught me valuable lessons about research and gaining network connections. SF provided me with a fascinating subject to write about in my college and scholarship essays. Additionally, my lab mentor wrote me many recommendation letters that I feel helped me get accepted into colleges and scholarship programs.

Achievements: My high school achievement was that I was the valedictorian of my school.

Project Abstract: Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease that affects almost a third of the world. This infection results from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a type of bacteria that is difficult to treat because there are many multi-drug resistant strains. Previous experiments found that the protein CarD is essential for the viability and rRNA transcription of M. tuberculosis. Therefore, it is of interest to study the effects of CarD on transcription initiation. To do this, DNA was tethered to a coverslip and magnetic bead, such that magnetic tweezers could be used to track how the RNA polymerase unwinds the DNA in the presence and absence of CarD. We hypothesize that CarD stabilizes the RNA polymerase (RNAP) open complex to increase the rate of transcription. In this study, DNA tethers were successfully created and magnetic tweezer data confirmed that the RNAP did unwind DNA with a Mycobacterium promoter. At this point, the results are inconclusive, but future experiments adding the CarD will show if our hypothesis is correct and if the DNA open complex is more stable. Further studies will be done with CarD to determine how it works and how manipulating CarD may help lead to a better treatment for tuberculosis.

Funded by: BALSA

Sarah Maciorowski Click here to go back

School: Cor Jesu Academy

Post secondary plans: Studying mechanical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology

Lab: The Dantas Lab Mentor: Molly Gibson

Department: Developmental Biology

Project Description: I studied horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic resistance genes in the human gut. Basically, I grew bacteria that is commonly found in the gut and has known genes that resist certain antibiotics with rapidly reproducing pathogens that readily collect various genes. I collected data to see which antibiotic resistance genes from the bacteria from the gut (donor strain) had transferred through direct contact and transfermation (common mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer) to the pathogens.

Favorite part about SF: My favorite part would have to be getting my hands dirty in science research. I had no idea that I would be able to use a Coy Chamber, gel electrophoresis​, and an ultraviolet plate reader. I learned to think on the fly and come up with solutions using the tools in front of me, with help of course.

How has SF modtivated you: After seeing what I could accomplish in eight short weeks with the help of a mentor and tutor truly amazed me. I discovered some remarkable facts that need to be further researched. Realizing that I could do something great if I worked hard enough has motivated me to continue studying math and science in order to discover and learn more.

Achievements: After I completed my time as a SF scholar, I was featured in the St. Louis Review for my work at Wash U. I was also a 2014 Honors Division Finalist and received a 2014 Certificate of Achievement from the Monsanto Fund. I also competed in the Missouri Junior Academy of Science, won 1st place with a Highly Superior ribbon, and was invited to complete at the University of Central Missouri. Next, I completed in the Junior Science, Engineering and Humanities Symposium at Maryville University. I was one of six in the Biology/Microbiology category presenting my project. I won 1st place in my category which meant I would present my paper again in front of the whole symposium, take home a cash prize, and be invited to complete in Washington, D.C. I also received the Certificate of Outstanding Achievement for Ability and Creativity in In Vitro Biology from the Society for In Vitro Biology. But most importantly, I gained experience to help me in the future.

Project Abstract: Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of antibiotic resistance genes is of increasing interestbecause of its impact on the evolution of bacteria. There are millions of genes and hundreds of bacterial species in the human gut, so HGT likely occurs frequently in the gut microbiota. To test HGT through conjugation, specific obligate and facultative anaerobes were co-cultured with E. coli in anaerobic conditions then selected on antibiotic plates. To test HGT by transformation, bacterial strains commonly found in the human gut microbiota were studied by pooling genomic DNA and culturing recipient A. baylyi strains with the pooled DNA. After co-culturing antibiotic sensitive E. coli with antibiotic resistant B. uniformis, E. coli gained the ability to grow in the presence of the antibiotic Chloramphenicol. E. coli also grew in the presence of Chloramphenicol when co-cultured with E. fergusonii. A. baylyi was similar in its growth in the presence of Chloramphenicol when transformed with Bacteroidetes DNA. By studying and experimenting with gut microbiota conditions, we can further understand the driving factors in HGT of antibiotic resistance genes.

Benjamin Steger Click here to go back

School: Webster Groves High School

Post secondary plans: Attend Oberlin College and Conservatory as a double-degree student (jazz trumpet and neuroscience or physics major)

Lab: Dr. Andrew Yoo's Lab Mentor: Christine Huh

Department: Developmental Biology

Project Description:Using MicroRNA's and transcription factors in order to directly reprogram human fibroblasts into glutamatergic neurons.

Favorite part about SF:Working in a research lab on my own project (not just helping with something else) was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I loved the freedom to explore and suggest my ideas for the research instead of being told exactly what to do.

How has SF modtivated you: I have always been interested in science from a young age but never knew exactly what it meant to be a researcher or scientist. I gained so much knowledge about the field I worked in and learned many necessary skills for working in a lab. This experience gave me some of the skills needed for my future research during college and as a career. The most valuable knowledge I gained from this program, however, is that a career in research is something I want to pursue. Knowing if a certain career fits you is crucial in choosing an educational and occupational path.

Achievements:$30,000 Oberlin Scholarship, Professorial Assistantship Research Opportunity, Local research oriented college scholarships, Honorable mention for St. Louis Area Physics Teachers Senior Physics Test

Project Abstract: Most neurological disorders can be extremely hard to study and even harder to cure. Direct reprogramming is the conversion of differentiated cells towards a different cell fate and is one way to study and cure disorders affecting only one type of cell. This can often be accomplished using transcription factors or microRNA. The brain enriched microRNA-9/9* and microRNA-124 (miR-9-124) have been shown to convert human fibroblasts to neurons. However, this population of neurons expressed high levels of genes from many areas in the brain indicating this was a heterogeneous population of different neuronal subtypes. The transcription factor neurogenin 2 plays a large role in neurogenisis and neuronal specification and has been shown to convert embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells into a pure population of glutamatergic neurons. Due to this, we hypothesized that Neurogenin 2 in combination with miR-9-124 would be able to reprogram human fibroblasts to an enriched population of glutamatergic neurons. We tested this by transfecting 293le cells to produce lentivirus containing the miR-9-124 and transcription factors and transducing the fibroblasts with the lentivirus. We found that the addition of neurogenin 2 to miR-9-124 was not enough to induce a higher expression level of VGlut1 (glutamatergic cell marker) than miR-9-124 alone, but it did improve the speed of reprogramming and the maturity of the induced neurons. Future tests such as qPCR would be useful to verify the subtype of neuron. The reprogramming of specific neuronal subtypes can improve modeling of diseases and regenerative medicine in the future.

Katie Hufker Click here to go back

School: Lindbergh High School

Post secondary plans: Stanford; biology or biomedical engineering

Lab: The Blumer Lab Mentor: Lixia Jia

Department: Cell Biology

Project Description: Alpha Beth Hydrolase Domain Protein 13 as a Regulator of Neuronal Protein Lipidation

Favorite part about SF: Working with all of the people in my lab

How has SF modtivated you:SF motivated you to achieve your educational/future occupational goals: YSP definitely deepened my interest in biology and research. It confirmed that I ultimately want to be a research scientist.

Achievements:Intel Science Talents Search Semi-Finalist, I was given full-tuition scholarships at University of Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Emory, and a $10,000 research fellowship at Johns Hopkins, but ultimately decided that Stanford was a much better fit; women of theyear at my school; Academy of Science: St. Louis Science Fair Honors Division 3rd Place; Mother of Twins Club Scholarship; Crestwood Elks Scholarship; Curtis Kenner Scholarship; Key Club Scholarship

Project Abstract:RGS7 family-binding protein (R7BP) is regulated by palmitoylation, a reversible, post-translational modification. The palmitoylation state determines R7BP’s localization, which regulates the G-protein gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channel and is important for neuronal function. We hypothesized that alpha beta hydrolase domain protein 13 (ABHD13) depalmitoylates R7BP. This was determined by modulating ABHD13 expression and observing the effects on R7BP through biochemical and localization assays. We found that R7BP and ABHD13 can be co-expressed. However we could not conclude that the overexpression of ABHD13 significantly enhances R7BP depalmitoylation. Knockdown constructs of ABHD13 were also established, though further work must be done. A better understanding of the regulation of R7BP can aid in the development of pharmaceuticals for neurological disorders.

Eric Lee Click here to go back

School: Francis Howell High School

Post secondary plans:UNC Chapel Hill

Lab: The Gordon Lab Mentor: Mark Charbonneau

Department: Genome Sciences and Systems Biology

Project Description: Enhancing Capture of Gut Microbes Using Enrichment Culturing Techniques

Favorite part about SF: Learning hands-on scientific method under the guidance of brilliant mentors and teachers.

How has SF modtivated you: Summer Focus was an eight-week-long lesson in the value of perseverance and patience, especially in pursuit of empirical data. It gave me insight into the field of academic research and taught me how to approach educational and occupational goals from a scientific standpoint.

Achievements: National Merit Scholar, National AP Scholar, Morehead-Cain Scholar (UNC Chapel Hill), Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship (Vanderbilt University), Chancellor's Scholarship (Vanderbilt University), Presidential Scholarship (University of Southern California), Missouri Scholars 100 (MASSP), United States Presidential Scholars Class of 2014 (US Dept. of Education)

Project Abstract: The diverse community of microorganisms residing in the human gut has been found to have a profound effect on host digestion, energy harvest, and various diseases. To dissect the function of the community and study the role of individual members, it is desirable to generate cultures representing the diversity of species present. While many bacteria can be readily isolated from a mixed sample, others are recalcitrant to culture due to complex requirements for growth. In the present study, enrichment and selection techniques were applied to a stool sample obtained from a healthy, six-month-old American infant, to cultivate low abundance organisms and expand an existing culture collection. Several species of gram-positive bacteria, especially from phylum Firmicutes and class Clostridia, are absent from this collection. Three enrichment culture conditions (low pH, heat-killing, antibiotic) were utilized, and the 16S bacterial rRNA gene was sequenced to identify isolates. Identification of cultured bacteria showed that the enrichment techniques applied were successful in selecting for the desired populations of bacteria. However, the species captured in the enrichment cultures were all present in the existing culture collection. In the future, different approaches must be utilized in order to cultivate the more elusive species. By capturing as much diversity as possible from the sample, we can expand our understanding of community function with both in vitro and in vivo studies using the cultured isolates.