LHWHS senior Monica Malone received an award for a science experiment that she entered into Intel ISEF 2016, a worldwide science competition. About 7 million people from across the world compete for 1,700 spots at Intel, and about 15 percent of those competing are awarded. Monica received a fourth place award of $500 for her experiment, which was entered into the Microbiology category. About 150 participants were also competing in this category.
Monica said that this was a huge accomplishment for her.
“Most students who had won an award at ISEF had competed for multiple years in the competition, so placing at my second science fair ever was pretty exciting!” she said.
Monica was able to submit her project to ISEF by winning first place at the Academy of Science St. Louis Science Fair, Honors Division.
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.