WSU microbiology students present research

Microbiology seniors Jennifer Jorgensen, Alessia Banning, and Amanda Zaugg present a poster.
Microbiology seniors Jennifer Jorgensen, Alessia Banning, and Amanda Zaugg present a poster.

Weber State University students from the College of Science’s microbiology department attended the American Society of Microbiology meeting in Pocatello, Idaho, on Saturday. Many students from the department presented undergraduate research through poster presentations to peers and society leaders.

Alessia Banning, a senior in microbiology, said presenting research at the meeting has been an eye-opening experience.

“The questions about my research have helped me learn how to discuss current research techniques and justify our results,” Banning said. “This experience has prepared me for graduate-school research opportunities.”

Students from Idaho State University, Brigham Young University and WSU meet with student leaders to discuss research and microbiological topics at the event. Seniors from other schools gave the oral presentations on mostly environment-based microbiology topics.

Karen Nakaoka, a microbiology professor at WSU, gave two separate sponsored poster presentations at the conference.

“I sparked this research from an idea I had on comparison of clinical samples to environmental samples of antibiotic-resistant organisms growing in the Great Salt Lake,” Nakaoka said. “It is important that students are contributing to the research and presenting on findings to their peers. It has helped the students gain research experience and helped the project move along at a good pace.”

Different students can contribute at different stages of the project to promote research. For example, one group of students can write the grant proposal while another group performs the research and analysis.

The keynote speaker of the conference, Carolyn Weber, discussed microbial gas components of volcanoes. Weber presented on her experiences in Hawaii sampling from volcanic eruption sites for her Ph.D. project. The breakthrough in her research came from carbon monoxide oxidation in volcanic rock to help boost the botanical growth post eruption.

“Students need to see that research ideas can be part of thinking outside the box in graduate settings,” Weber said. “I hope that those students attending the conference take away the concept of bigger picture within their research ideas.”

This yearly meeting of the intermountain branch is usually months before the nationwide meeting, which is being held in Colorado this year.

Ashley Badley, a senior in microbiology, will present her research at the national American Society of Microbiology meeting in May.

“I am excited that I was able to present today,” Badley said. “Until this point, I had not presented to a microbiology crowd, and I feel that the questions have better prepared me for the national meeting questions and audience level.”

Many WSU microbiology students and professors will travel to the national meeting in May for presentations.