LHWHS Senior Monica Malone blinded us with science at the Academy of Science St. Louis Science Fair, Honors Division on Saturday, Feb. 27! Monica’s experiment won first place, earning her $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May.
About 7 million people from across the world compete for 1,700 spots at Intel. Monica said she is completely in shock that one of those spots is hers, but she’s ready to take her project to this next competition.
Her experiment took about eight months to complete, requiring her to learn some challenging techniques. Monica analyzed differences in the diversity of microbial communities in till versus no-till soil using DNA sequencing and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Her conclusion? She found a greater diversity of microbes in the no-till soil.
“In the future, my project could be used to introduce “healthy” microbes into infertile soil in order to promote plant growth,” Monica said. “These microbes could act as a natural substitute to fertilizers.”
Her findings also help promote no-till farming practices by proving that tilling soil also disrupts the microbiome of agricultural soils.
“Tilling soil has large-scale negative effects such as massive soil erosion and the release of carbon dioxide into the environment, which contributes to global warming,” she said.
Monica conducted her research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center where she has been employed as a research assistant for nearly three years.
Monica entered her findings in the Honors Division Science Fair, which requires an extensive project and a sizable amount of paperwork to be eligible to enter. Not only did she take home the win, but this was her first year competing in this particular science fair.
“I honestly had no idea I would win going in,” Monica said. “I knew my project was high quality, but I did not have any expectations of winning.”
Her father, along with her mentor, Dr. Woodford-Thomas, were with her when the Academy of Science of St. Louis announced that hers was the winning project.
“We were all jumping up and down and hugging,” she said. “I was ecstatic when I found out! I really could not believe I would be representing my whole city at Intel and winning thousands of dollars.”