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BCTC Staff Work on Biology Experiment With Casey County Students

Students doing chemistry experiments

Students from Casey Country High Schools science club are getting an opportunity to perform a hands-on experiment from start to finish while working with Bluegrass Community and Technical College biotechnology and biology staff.

The experiment is answering questions about Wolbachia, a bacterial parasite that infects insects, that relate to how different strains develop. This bacteria is not transmittable to humans, but the study of this bacteria may be used to learn about the spread of diseases that can affect humans.

The project began with a training for the Casey County High School science teacher associated with the project, Rebecca Streeval, this summer by Larry Porter, BCTC biology instructional specialist, and Stephanie Stoelb, BCTC biotechnology instructional specialist.

In August, BCTC staff traveled to Casey County where they assisted the students with setting up the insect traps to collect the samples needed for their experiment. The science club traveled to BCTC in November to examine the samples and learn how to extract DNA from the insect samples they collected in the biology lab.

In the next phase of this experiment, BCTC staff will be traveling to Casey County in February with the equipment needed to analyze the DNA that was extracted from the insects, determining if the insect samples collected have Wolbachia and use the results to answer the questions posed in the experiment. The last phase will have the students take the findings and use bioinformatics to quantify the results.

"The purpose of this project is to get students interested in STEM. A good way to do that is to get them involved in research," said Porter. The Casey County students get the project are energetic and excited about the work.

The Wolbachia research began with an independent project conducted in May 2015 by Kati Carter and Ron Hill, students in Biology 295 class, working with Porter. The results of this experiment were recently presented at the Kentucky Academy of Sciences. Results from the Casey County experiment will be added to these findings.

The project is being funded through a STEM PRIDE grant from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education subawarded by the University of Kentucky. The purpose of the grant is to encourage high school students throughout the state to develop an interest in STEM. The grant has been used to purchase the expendable materials needed for the experiment, while the equipment needed to analyze the results is being provided by BCTC.