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My Experience at the 2016 Calgary Youth Science Fair - Lilian Zhang

At the recent Calgary Youth Science Fair, I spent some time wandering through the student displays and talking to the participants. I was very impressed with the increased number of high school students presenting this year. I challenged several students to send me their thoughts about science fairs. I gave them a broad brush to tell me about mentors, topics, what skills they have developed and where they think they will go next.

Lilian Zhang, grade 10 student at Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary, took me up on the challenge. Here is her guest blog. I know you will be as impressed with her positive outlook as I was.

My Experience at the 2016 Calgary Youth Science Fair

Image of Lilian Zhang
Calgary Youth Science Fair was always a passageway for my passions in the world of science. This year, I was able to attend again, and as usual, I learned many things from my experience of doing the project. My mentors, teachers, friends, and especially my parents, encouraged me, and taught and helped me so much throughout the process. However, most importantly, I was able to gain the most knowledge from my peers at the Science Fair. From hearing about the chemical structure of ascorbic acid in fruits, to microbial fuel cells, to the role of proteins in the cure for various diseases, I was constantly impressed by the level of ingenuity every student was able to show.

This year, I presented my project: Discovering Novel Antibiotics Produced from Soil Bacteria. I discovered new potential antibiotics from soil bacteria while I was fortunately able to work with many professors, technicians, and university students at the University of Calgary. Presently, the broad use of antibiotics across the world has triggered bacterial resistance to them, consequently leading to the emergence of “superbugs”. “Superbugs” are bacteria that are resistant to several different types of antibiotics, subsequently a series of previously treatable diseases that are now untreatable by antibiotics. According to the WHO, unless urgent action is taken to find new antibiotics, the planet will enter a “post-antibiotic apocalypse” where common treatable infections will become deadly killers. Therefore, the search for new antibiotics is highly critical. Soil hosts a high bacterial content and diversity, so bacteria must produce a diversity of production, including antibiotics, in order to survive in such environments. However, we are only aware of a very small fraction of all possible antibiotics resistance systems.

For my experiment, first, I collected the soil, and sample plated. After, I continued with antibiotic production screening and antibiotic production location. Then, I did inhibition colony isolation. From the selected inhibition colonies, I did DNA purification and used the PCR machine to amplify the 16S-rRNA gene from the bacterial genomic DNA. I ran the agarose gel and purified the PCR product. Finally, I obtained the 16S-rRNA gene sequence and constructed the 16S-rRNA gene phylogenetic tree against standard control bacteria for bacterial identification. In conclusion, I was able to find at least four bacterial colonies that may produce potentially novel antibiotics because they were effective against two superbug strains that are resistant to almost all types of currently applied antibiotics. However, further studies must be conducted to separate and reveal/identify the molecular structures of the new antibiotics.

From my project, I learned that the world is in dire need of novel antibiotics due to the broad use of current ones and the exponential rate of resistance from bacteria to these antibiotics. Through my experiment, I was able to identify new potential antibiotics from bacteria in the soil. This yields the most potential to accelerate the much necessary process of discovering new antibiotics to curb the “post-antibiotic apocalypse” dilemma.

Throughout all these continuous years of participating in Science Fair, I have developed a passion for the world of science, and I hope that I will pursue a higher-degree education in a possible field in science, and perhaps even find a career in science. I want to pursue my interests in my future, and it is evident to me that they lie in the world of science. I hope I will continue to receive a lot of support from my peers, teachers, and family, and most importantly, that I will be able to advance from my experience here from the 2016 Calgary Youth Science Fair.

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My Experience at the 2016 Calgary Youth Science Fair - Lilian Zhang

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