Bean Weevils + Kudzu = Oil?

nicoleThis year BAJONI is down to 2 members. Bain and I are screening the B. ademptus (a bean weevil specific to kudzu seeds) and fungus isolated from the outside of the kudzu seeds for the presence of lipases and proteases. Lipases are enzymes that break down oil and proteases are enzymes that break down proteins. If the fungus or bean weevils test positive for lipases, proteases, or both, then they could later be used in enzymatic oil extraction and produce better, more efficient oil to be used as a biodiesel.

What’s Shakin’?

Eliza 2The most frequent question I am asked by guests to the TIME room is “What is that shaking thing that looks like it has dumplings in flasks?”  Many are fascinated by this strange tool and the microbes growing on it.  Even Mr. Gibbs, Director of Human Resources at the Ed Center, stopped mid-presentation to say “I’ve got to ask: What is that thing jiggling in the back?”  Now you too are wondering…what is this mysterious instrument?
THE SHAKING INCUBATOR was acquired by the TIME program last year for my group’s project.  It has a rotating plate in which different flasks can be strapped in and spun for an infinite amount of time at any RPM.  We use this to grow our microbes in broth cultures rather than petri dishes.  The shaking helps to oxidize the culture and thus promotes respiration.

Currently growing on the shaker are some of my most beloved organisms.  We have two positive controls. These are different species of Trichoderma, which is a known cellulase producer.  One of these is growing great, and the other has no signs of growth.  Next is my personal favorite, B4, which is a currently unknown organism we cultured from compost.  B4 appears to be a fungus.  Lastly is B5, another unknown organism from compost, who also appears to be producing the enzymes necessary to digest the cellulose.  B5 resembles a bacteria.

If you are interested in observing this fascinating piece of equipment, feel free to take a visit to the TIME room at BHS during 4th period.  We’d be happy to show you around.

Help Fund the T.I.M.E. Program!

Untitled presentation (4)Hello T.I.M.E. supporters!

It’s about TIME to get the funding for the 2016-2017 program year. My name is Abby Williams and I am trying to raise $12,000 for the TIME program to fill the current budget gap for the 2016-2017 school year. I have created an Indiegogo page where all of you can donate any amount you want. Any contribution will be greatly appreciated by all of the past, current and future TIME students!

Click HERE to go to the Indiegogo preview page.  The link will become live and you will be able to donate on the 5th of December! If you cannot donate anything please share this post on Facebook or any other social media site to help us reach our goal. This program has inspired many young scientists and we want to continue to do so!


A Trip to the DAR Jubilee Forest

DSC_0007A beautiful Veteran’s Day trip to the newly re-discovered DAR Jubilee Forest near Devil’s Courthouse yielded acres of the elusive red spruce.  Most of the trees looked healthy, although some adults were bare. There were also quite a few seedlings to be found–a great sign!

It will be exciting to see what mycorrhizae Hannah and Emily can isolate from the roots of these trees!

Just a jump and a skip and I’m in the woods

It’s nice when all you have to do is go out your front yard and collect what you need  for your project. I live near the forest and my project is on mycorrhizae, which is a type of fungi that leaves in tree roots. We want to see what types are in what trees and if the baby trees have the same as the mother tree. Hannah L

…Try Again!

The project proposals are in and we’re on our way with the end goal in mind.  Our science team, which includes Lauren, Eliza and Bryce (AKA Brella), is working of improving the efficiency or the biofuel process.  Specifically we want to find the optimal consortuim of microorganisms that secrete vauluable enzymes that break down the polysacharides to be later coverted into alchohols.  After several weeks of planning our project we have come across several confilicts.  Originally we planned on including our beloved Diaporthe fungus in our consortium but we came to the realization that we don’t have enough time to first isolate a natural microbial consortium, assay the enzymes in those and also create the Diaporth consortium artificially.  Our new and improved plan is focusing on just isolating the natural consortuim and using enzyme assays to detect the level of activity.  The Diaporthe consortuim will be put on hold unless we have enough time.  Despite our many challenges faced during our research our dream of improving the biofuel process is still the same and we will keep working with the big picture in mind.Bryce

When You Don’t Succeed…

The constant thought throughout this semester is “What are we doing?” Sometimes the answer is clear, while other times it takes a lot of thought. Already, Team Brella (Bryce, Eliza, and Lauren) has made a radical change to our plan. Upon further inspection of our original project proposal, we realized that it was not realistic because of our time constraints. LaurenWe were so ready to begin our project, but instead we went back to the drawing board. With the help of Eliza’s perfectly organized diagrams, we came up with a new and improved plan that still works towards our goal. This is a classic situation that happens in science research. The possibilities excite and overwhelm us and we get a little dazed by them. But taking a step back and considering how realistic the project is really helps ground our ideas and makes for a great project. I can’t wait to see what happens this semester!

Pueraria montana var. lobata… AKA Kudzu!

JohnOur group, BAJONI (BAin, JOhn, NIcole), is working on a practice solvent extraction trial on soybeans in preparation for the kudzu solvent oil extraction. Kudzu as you may have encountered on multiple occasions, is an invasive plant native to Asia. It was introduced to the US in 1876 at the Phillidalphia Centennial Exposition. Farmers were then encouraged to plant this vine from the 1935s to mid-1950s to stop soil erosion. Kudzu is now found in 30 states in the US and is causing environmental conflicts. Instead of trying to get rid of this vine, we are finding a way to take advantage of its vigorous growth rate. We are currently working out methods to extract oil from kudzu seeds. The oil will be turned into biodiesel. We will then determine the feasibility of using kudzu seed oil as a source of biodiesel.

A minor planet is named after a Brevard High School Student!

DSC00037Minor Planet 31631 has been named “Abbywilliams” in honor of BHS TIME student Abby Williams who, along with her partner Carly Onnink, won 2nd place in the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  MIT Lincoln Laboratory has partnered with Intel ISEF’s Society for Science & the Public to promote science education through the Ceres Connection program.  More information on the minor planet (main-belt asteroid) Abbywilliams can be found at this NASA link.

Fewer than 15,000 people share the honor of having a minor planet named after them. The process of naming a minor planet follows a well-defined sequence of events.  After a minor planet receives a permanent designation or number, the discoverer of the minor planet has 10 years to propose a name for it. Once the name is proposed, the 13-member, international Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature must judge and approve the name. Contrary to some media reports, it is not possible to buy a minor planet.


TIME Represents at NCJSHS

DSC00709Congratulations to the TIME 4 Real Science students who represented Brevard High School at the North Carolina Junior Science and Humanities Symposium on Monday.  Sam Farrar, Carver Nichols, Crista Cali, Ryan Holland, Allie Reece and Lauren Tooley were selected to present their research in the poster competition.  Carly Onnink was one of the top ten students statewide chosen to give an oral presentation and placed fourth during the competition for her project, “Electroantennogram assays to determine Megacopta cribraria response to [E]-2-hexenal, tridecane, and [E]-2-decenal.”  Ryan was awarded 3rd place in the poster competition for his project “Screening Local Lignicolous Fungi for Lignin Degrading Enzymes.”  Ryan will represent NC at the national competition in Washington, DC in April. Great job!