Students soar in state science fair

Kevin Wilson

Sunny Liu and Jake Bonner were really just looking for an ‘A’ in their science class.
They got that, along with a first place at the state science fair and a chance to move on to the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge in Washington, D.C.
“This is a little bit more than we expected,” said Bonner, who is an eighth grader at Portales Junior High School with Liu.
The pair took first place in the junior team project category of the state’s Science and Engineering Fair, held in Socorro over the weekend.
The pair beat out 16 other teams with their project, “Inhibition of Bacterial Growth by a Commonly Used Pesticide.” Basically, the pair wanted to find out the effect of the pesticide Lindane on a bacteria referred to DH5-Alpha ecoli.
The bacteria, Liu said, exists in the spleens of humans and the stomachs of animals and is used for digestion. Lindane is a pesticide that is primarily used for lumber, seed grains and livestock.
“I have horses and cows,” Bonner said. “I wanted to know what was going into them.”
Their basic hypothesis was that the bacteria’s growth would decrease with the increase of the pesticide. For the experiment, they took four different concentrations of Lindane in a 25 milliliter sample — none, .01 percent, .1 percent and 1 percent, with two petri dishes for each concentration.
Their findings were pretty much in line with their original hypothesis.
“As the concentration of Lindane increases,” Liu said, “the growth of ecoli decreases.”
The pair was quick to note that the Environmental Protection Agency limits Lindane usage to a much lower concentration than was used in their petri dishes.
“The reason we did that,” Bonner said, “is because following the EPA guidelines would have taken years to produce (noticeable) results.”
Originally, the pair was just looking to invest two to three months and do the project just for a grade. Now, after the regional competition in Portales (March 6) and state competition in Socorro, they have a first-place finish and a chance to go to Washington, D.C., in what would be their freshman year of high school.
As a winner in the state category, Liu and Bonner received an invitation to enter the Young Scientist Challenge, scheduled for Oct. 23-28 in Washington, D.C. They still have to submit their project for consideration, and would earn an all-expense-paid trip to the event if they were chosen as finalists.
Of course, the pair is still trying to use the first-place finish for all it’s worth.
“I asked my teacher for extra credit,” Liu joked, “but I don’t think I’m getting it.