SIR Students Showcase at the Sigma Xi Virtual Research Conference | Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

SIR Students Showcase at the Sigma Xi Virtual Research Conference

December 2, 2020

This annual event from The Scientific Research Honor Society showcased emerging trends and challenges across a broad spectrum of science–art collaborations and explored how interdisciplinarity can advance scientific discoveries. Dr. John Thurmond joined a few of the sessions, which covered topics such as behavioral sciences, art therapy, neuroscience of aesthetic experience, data visualization, communicating science through arts, the brain’s response to music, and innovative strategies for integrating arts in STEM education and research. He also attended meetings in the fields of chemistry and medicine.

One of the six components of this event, held on November 5, included a student research conference. This year, Dr. John Thurmond extended the invite to five of his students in their second year in the SIR Course—Drug Discovery. IMSA was represented by three SIR projects from these seniors: Emily Atkinson, Emma Darbro, Jack Grotke, Saachi Kumar, and Julianna Padilla.

The purpose of Emma Darbro’s study was to examine and determine whether the herbal medicine Ginkgo Biloba has any antimicrobial properties. She determined that methanol extracts of Ginkgo leaf and ethanol extracts of Ginkgo produced the best results. The procedure included grinding and mixing ethanol and methanol and extracting organic compounds from ginkgo leaves and pill concentrates. She tested the extract against different ESKAPE pathogens, the most successful cases being Bacillus subtiliis and Acinetobacter baylyi. Results showed that Ginkgo Biloba has medicinal properties that could help kill certain bacteria.

Jack Grotke presented his project on the Synthesis of Fenarimols as Novel Drug Candidates for Mycetoma, which is an infection caused by the Eumycetoma fungus and is a neglected tropical disease that attacks the skin, deep muscle, and bone, causing devastating deformities. Novel compounds were synthesized and later purified using techniques such as column chromatography. The compounds were characterized using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and thin-layer chromatography (TLC) to verify their chemical structures. The final compounds will be sent to his collaborators within the OpenSource Mycetoma Project from the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), Geneva, for biological testing. The results can then be used to design new molecules. To date, three compounds have been successfully synthesized and characterized.

A research group made the third presentation of three students: Emily Atkinson, Saachi Kumar, and Julianna Padilla. Their abstract stated that there is a need for new antimicrobials since there is an increase in existing antibiotics failing due to antibiotic resistance. Their experiment used the Kirby-Bauer method to test the antimicrobial properties of nanoparticles, specifically zeolite clinoptilolite, mixed with ginger extracts. Several solvents (ethanol, methanol, and deionized water) were used to extract the active compounds in ginger, using two methods (reflux condensation and room-temperature steeping). They also utilized Bacteria: B. subtilis, E. raffinosus, A. baylyi, P. putida, P. fluorescens, and E. coli in their experiment. Their results demonstrated that ginger extracts from ethanol combined with zeolite clinoptilolite into a nanoparticle, exhibit antimicrobial properties against Acinetobacter baylyi, a bacteria that causes various diseases from urinary tract infections to secondary meningitis.