Often, the projects students work on in the Advanced Biology class at Cascade High school, are actually grandfathered in by previous students. Other times the projects are started from the ground up by students in the class, using contacts within the community and their own initiative. The project that I work on is one of the aforementioned.
My project, The Microbiology of Thermus Aquaticus, began two years ago with the initiative of three senior girls, Jessica Byrd, Betsy Shotton, and April Haskins. These girls observed that near our home town there were several granitic fracture zone hot springs that had healthy looking bacterial mats. With this in mind, a question developed. Because it would seem very difficult for bacteria that survives in such an extreme, isolated environment to migrate, they wondered if perhaps the bacteria found in Vulcan Hot Springs, located near Cascade, Idaho, was genetically unique. The goal of the project was to sequence and compare the DNA of Thermus Aquaticus found in Vulcan Hot Springs to a standard piece of T. Aquaticus DNA. To achieve this, we need to culture T. Aquaticus, collect samples from Vulcan Hot Springs, lyse the T. Aquaticus cells, run PCR to amplify a particular gene, and sequence the DNA. Sometimes projects that start out as simple ideas actually develop into something amazing. While searching for contacts to help them with their project, Jessica, Betsy and April stumbled into an opportunity of a lifetime.
During the summer of 1998 April, Jessica, and Betsy led the way as nine students, myself included, traveled to Idaho falls to spend a summer working in the lab of Dr. Frank Roberto to receive help in achieving the goals of their project. At the conclusion of the summer, as the girls graduated, the project was left to me to carry on. This year, as I graduate, the project will be left to Sarah, a junior at our high school. Part of the obligation we have as students in the Advanced Biology class is to train someone to follow you in your project. Hopefully in the future, Sarah will accomplish more exciting things with the project than I ever dreamed of. I can only hope that I have left her, as April, Jessica, and Betsy left me, with somewhere to go and an exciting path to follow.