Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011 - (Page 12)

vs bacteria Po getting the toxins out UR SCIENCE TEACHER introduced us to science fairs three years ago. We’d been friends for a long time and shared the same interests, so we decided to work together on our first project, which focused on microbial resistance to antibiotics. The next year, we conducted a project on microbial degradation of rubber and tires, which was awarded a silver medal in biotechnology at the 2009 Canada-wide Science Fair. In the weeks after the fair, we missed the process of research and experimentation, along with the adrenaline rush of making presentations to the judges. We started looking for a new research topic almost immediately. We were still very interested in environmental issues, and we wanted to work on a project that could have a meaningful impact on an environmental problem. Then, one day in class, our biology teacher mentioned that polystyrene—best known as Styrofoam—has a worldwide annual production of 7 million metric tons and that less than one percent of it is recycled annually. We were on our way to our next project. EXRAY FOTO/SIWI O by Alexandre Allard and danny luong Clean-up Crew After months of reading scientific literature, Alexandre came across an article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that sharpened our focus. The article showed that when immersed in water, within one year, polystyrene releases toxic molecules such as styrene (a carcinogen) and bisphenol A (an endocrine disruptor). This paper demonstrated for the first time that polystyrene is not as chemically stable as once thought. As we read more, we learned that polystyrene accumulates in landfills and in waters, especially in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in part because current industrial recycling methods are too expensive. We realized that with its potential to leach toxic molecules, polystyrene is becoming a threat to the environment. Knowing that there are a wide variety of microorganisms that have adapted to be able to degrade organic compounds, we hypothesized that it would be possible to isolate microorganisms capable of using polystyrene as a carbon (food) source, thus degrading it. Microorganisms are highly competitive; in order to survive, they must be able to adapt to their environment. The process of adaptation usually involves genetic mutations and the secretion of proteins called enzymes. We further hypothesized that, in an environment with a high concentration of polystyrene, SHUTTERSTOCK, vECTORSTOCK 12 imagine Jan/feb 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/february 2011
Big Picture
In My Own Words
Becoming Environmentally Eloquent
Bacteria vs. Polystyrene: Getting the Toxins Out
Feat of Clay
What Lies Beneath
Clean & Green?
Ocean Embrace
Selected Opportunities & Resources
Making the Most of Public School
Word Wise
One Step Ahead
Exploring Career Options
Off the Shelf
Planning Ahead for College
Students Review
Creative Minds Imagine
Mark Your Calendar
Knossos Games

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011