HomeNewsArticle Display

AFRL-Carroll High School iGEM team earns Gold in Boston

Peter Menart, member of the Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team, examines liquid in a beaker during the laboratory phase of the team’s project prior to the iGEM competition in Boston.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Richard Eldridge)

Dallas McDonald, member of the Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team, prepares a gel for DNA analysis during the laboratory phase of the team’s project prior to the iGEM competition in Boston. (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)

Tina Davis and Peter Menart, members of the Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team, use a pipette as they work on their synthetic biology project in a laboratory in the 711th Human Performance Wing prior to the iGEM competition in Boston. (U.S. Air Force photo/Richard Eldridge)

Annie Bete and Dallas McDonald, members of the Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team, use a pipette to add media to their engineered bacterial cells in a laboratory in the 711th Human Performance Wing prior to the iGEM competition in Boston. (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)

The Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team proudly displays their gold medals after the international iGEM competition in Boston Nov. 13.

The Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team proudly displays their gold medals after the international iGEM competition in Boston Nov. 13, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)

Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team stand with their CHS teachers and AFRL mentors in front of the 711th Human Performance Wing headquarters building following a presentation given to the 711HPW Chief Scientist Dr. Rajesh Naik (front, second from left).  (U.S. Air Force photo/Richard Eldridge)

Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory-Carroll High School iGEM team stand with their CHS teachers and AFRL mentors in front of the 711th Human Performance Wing headquarters building following a presentation given to the 711th HPW Chief Scientist Dr. Rajesh Naik. (front, second from left). (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- A Carroll High School academic team, mentored by CHS teachers and Air Force Research Laboratory scientists, earned a gold medal at the 2017 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition in Boston, Nov. 9-13, 2017.

This team, whose Twitter handle is @iGEMLabPats, presented its project entitled “Engineered Microbes to Sense and Respond to Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli,” which examined this most common form of traveler’s diarrhea that affects thousands of deployed warfighters.

“This research aligns seamlessly with the tri-service (Army, Navy and Air Force) Synthetic Biology for Military Environments initiative that many researchers within AFRL are involved with,” explained Dr. Michael Goodson, an iGEM mentor and research scientist with AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing. “The most prevalent disease affecting our deployed service members is traveler’s diarrhea. The biological machine that our iGEM team designed would detect the traveler’s-diarrhea-caused bacteria ETEC and indicate its presence by glowing green. It could be put into water sources and even within the gastrointestinal tract to give an early warning of ETEC infection.”

The Office of the Secretary of Defense sponsored this team under the Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities program in Synthetic Biology for Military Environments.

“Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research that can be broadly described as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems,” according to the United Kingdom Royal Society. A common example of a microorganism that can be introduced into the body is a probiotic, which consists of live bacteria and yeasts that benefit the digestive system.

The team competed with 337 teams from around the world, and was one of 47 high school teams. It was the only team from Ohio, and was one of two teams from the United States to earn gold.

“This is the first year OSD and AFRL sponsored an iGEM team so everyone involved was a trailblazer,” Goodson said. “The dedication, diligence and flexibility of the team, especially the students, was essential to the success of the team. They worked above and beyond our wildest expectations; they ‘grasped the nettle’ and took possession of the project. The lab portion of the project is only one part of the final submission; there are other components related to public outreach, collaboration with other teams, and design of a wiki page. The students performed all of these with minimal guidance and assistance from the mentors.”

Matthew Sableski, the CHS principal explained that the experiences afforded to these students were vast, being able to compete with hundreds of teams on an international stage.

“The AFRL-CHS iGEM team collaborated with schools from London, Singapore, Denmark and Michigan, to name a few,” Sableski said. “At the competition they met other (Department of Defense) teams from West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy and a team sponsored by the Army. They consulted with high school, under-graduate and post-graduate students.”

Goodson explained that teams from all over the world were sharing their success and failures during the event in order to push and encourage each other.

“The energy associated with the event was palpable. Our students were meeting up with each other, and other teams, to animatedly discuss the amazing breakthroughs and creative problem solving they had just witnessed in each presentation. Speaking personally, it has been one of the most inspiring and uplifting moments in my AFRL career, and I think that sentiment was shared by all the members of the team,” explained Goodson.

The CHS team were all students at Carroll High School when the team was started back in May 2017, explained Goodson. Originally, the team consisted of then-seniors Tina Davis, Dallas McDonald, Andrea Poole, and Angela Smith; then-juniors Jason Dong and Peter Menart; and then-sophomores Annie Bete, Jonah Carter, Max Herrmann and Hayley Jesse.

Those seniors are now college students, all attending universities in Ohio. Andrea Poole and Tina Davis attend Wright State University; Dallas McDonald, Case Western Reserve University; and Angela Smith, University of Cincinnati.

“These young people went from not knowing one end of a micropipette from the other to fielding and confidently answering questions from world-renowned leaders in synthetic biology in only seven months,” Goodson said. “I am confident they will become the leaders of the future and, based on this evidence, the future is bright.”

Mentors from CHS were Drs. Martha Carter, Caroline Dickey and Chrissy O'Malley. Mentors from AFRL were Dr. Nancy Kelley-Loughnane with 711th HPW and Dr. Wendy Goodson with the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate as well as AFRL UES, Inc. contractors Drs. Michael Goodson, Chia Hung, Vanessa Varaljay and Rachel Krabacher.

Having a successful team takes a village though, and many other research scientists from the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and the 711th Human Performance Wing were involved, Goodson said.

“The iGEM experience has planted seeds that no doubt will bloom with the promise of the next generation of scientists,” stated Sableski.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AFEnergy: If you don't measure progress, you can't affect change. #FuelMoreFight #MondayMotivation https://t.co/80sg3un0ov
The latest roundup of the best #AirForce photos is out. See them here: https://t.co/wU5rxsXJRq https://t.co/JUE9Yd0cKS
RT @WarriorCare: Have you missed some of the action? Check out our photo gallery on Flickr and get caught up on your favorite athlete makin…
#USAF Critical Care Air Transport team members, transport mother & 7-month-old son on a #C130 flight from… https://t.co/o1aNSelM1t
RT @DOD_Outreach: Pedaling on! @usairforce Capt. Heather Wright races an upright bicycle during the #DOD #WarriorGames2019 today. This is t…
#DYK, @WrightPattAFB became a Bee City in 2017, solidifying #AirForce's commitment to bee protection and revitaliza… https://t.co/jnoUyjQTiY
RT @ActingSecAF: Today the ⁦@usairforce⁩ has a historic opportunity to continue our leadership in #space & secure the final frontier for ou…
RT @DOD_Outreach: Feel the calm. 😌 @AFW2 Tech Sgt. Ricardo Rivera practices his freestyle swim techniques for today’s competition at the @…
#WarriorGames2019 Track competition is happening NOW! 🏃‍♂️💨 Head over https://t.co/jiYSkUGhmB to see it LIVE. GO… https://t.co/E2pYScoZSC
RT @WarriorCare: This isn’t your average morning run! Day 2 has started with Track competitions. We’re here at Yuengling Center at the Univ…
Our hearts go out to #TuskegeeAirman Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert J. Friend and his family. Thank you for decades of serv… https://t.co/CUHadFr0sC
“So far, as a wing, we’ve made all this look easy. But it hasn’t been." - Maj. Michael Slotten, 421st Fighter Squad… https://t.co/7YQnJV9yel
RT @WarriorCare: The weather is hot in Tampa. Perfect for a new 2019 Warrior Games competition: Golf 🏌️‍♀️ First on the greens is Staff Sgt…
.@AF_SMC's summer is booked with four back to back launch missions. Use #SummerOfLaunch19 to track their progress… https://t.co/9LsEMIvsaf
.@TeamEglin shows how "hot pitting" helps fuel the fight in real time. https://t.co/zIQUT2v9vj
RT @ActingSecAF: Being a good leader means caring for Airmen. Hearing how @GenDaveGoldfein has continued to take care of those who answered…
RT @DeptofDefense: “You inspire me!” Captain Marvel herself, @BrieLarson shares words of encouragement to the athletes of the upcoming @Wa
RT @ActingSecAF: Merci beaucoup to our gracious host & close ally France for bringing together countries from around the world to showcase…