It’s All in the Soil: Science Major Presents at Wisconsin Symposium

It’s All in the Soil: Science Major Presents at Wisconsin Symposium

How much do you really know about the small town of St. Bonifacius, Minnesota?

There are 2,372 residents, a Kwik Trip, and a well-known biking path.

Recently, a Crown student made an interesting finding about the soil, one that might show up as a trivia question or a dinner table discussion for years to come.

Daniel Kadima, an upcoming junior from the Math and Science Department, did research on the soil around Crown’s campus in nearby St. Bonifacius and found that it contains antibiotic-producing bacteria (which is important in terms of medical research). In fact, he found as many as 15 antibacterial-producers present in the soil.

The research, which required a full semester of work while he was a lab assistant for Gen Bio II this past Spring, led to a travel grant. He gave a visual presentation of his findings on June 21-22 at the Tiny Earth 2018 Symposium, part of the Tiny Earth lab course (formerly known as Small World Initiative) conducted at Crown and other schools. Tiny Earth provided the grant.

While growing bacteria and finding antibiotic-producers is part of the course’s curriculum, it was a surprise for Kadima to find that the soil in St. Bonifacius is rich with antibiotic-producing bacteria. And, more importantly, the opportunity to present on his research will prepare him for working in academic and professional circles in a future career.

“The project was designed to let students familiarize themselves with the bacteria world,” says Kadima, who explained that the bacterial finding is important as it allows researchers to find both bacterial and antibacterial agents in soil mixtures, aiding in medical research.

“I collected the soil from the ground of our campus, then I performed the serial dilutions of one gram of the soil in water in the lab. I then placed the dilution in five media (PDA, BHI, TGEA, NA, and TSA) plates to grow bacteria,” he says. “I grew isolated bacteria on relatives of pathogens using the spread and patch method, then I looked for zones of inhibitions to identify antibiotic-producers. After that I used the DNA sequence using the NCBI BLAST (the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) program to identify six isolates and tested these against other microorganisms.”

While doing this project, Kadima says he got a taste for what scientific research is really like. He also learned what it means to apply to present at a symposium. It involved an application, a letter from his advisor and a phone interview. It was an interesting exercise in perseverance and staying diligent with a project.

“Intellectual curiosity and a strong work ethic are important character traits for success in anything academic,” says Dr. Aeisha Thomas, the Associate Professor of Biology and Life Science at Crown College. “Daniel was interested and stayed engaged this semester, and this summer as we worked on the presentation. Additionally these types of opportunities give students a chance to try something for a season which they can then decide if they like.”

Dr. Thomas says students learn what real academic science is like, to interact with peers in a research setting, and to consider how they will continue in their academic progress.

For Kadima, one of the highlights was to hear what other students had found in their own research — and the free travel to the symposium was a nice extra perk.