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Alumni, Broadcom MASTERS

Broadcom MASTERS inspires STEM confidence

12:08PM, May 3, 2017
Doing Science
Aria describes her research with a judge at the 2016 Broadcom MASTERS Project Showcase.

Aria describes her research with a judge at the 2016 Broadcom MASTERS Project Showcase.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC/BRADY ROBINSON.

One middle school student studied the effect of the weed killer Roundup on human gut bacteria. Aria Eppinger won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement of $20,000 for her research in the 2016 Broadcom MASTERS. 

For her project, Aria grew two types of bacteria found in the human gut and tested the effect of Roundup on that gut bacteria. The human microbiome is a collection of bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms that inhabit the body. There is a balance of good and bad bacteria within our guts. Gut microbiome plays an important role in digestion, and "has recently been implicated in health conditions including heart disease, obesity and asthma, and may even influence behavior," according to a September 2016 article in Science News.

Read on to learn more about Aria's continued research, including repeated Roundup exposure on the human gut microbiome.


Aria Eppinger (left), Anushka Naiknaware, and Lucas Ritzdorf create a crab arm model.

HOW HAVE YOU FURTHERED YOUR RESEARCH INTO HOW ROUNDUP AFFECTS THE GUT: Recently I have been investigating the effects of repeated Roundup exposure on the human gut microbiome. The average American receives multiple exposures daily, with doses on a single serving of food ranging from 10-1000 parts per billion (ppb) glyphosate, the main and active ingredient in the herbicide.

For example, a serving of Goldfish Crackers was found to have approximately 10 ppb whereas Cheerios can have upwards of 1,000 ppb of glyphosate. My results suggest that at glyphosate doses similar to what is found on common foods, repeated exposure adversely effects beneficial more than harmful human gut bacteria. In particular, beneficial bacteria growth continues to be inhibited by repeated exposure whereas the harmful bacteria eventually become resistant and recover to original growth. Repeated exposure could potentially lead to gut dysbiosis and its serious associated diseases including cancer, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and many others. 


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Beneficial bacteria growth continues to be inhibited by repeated [Roundup] exposure whereas the harmful bacteria eventually become resistant.

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF RESEARCH? THE BEST PART: The most difficult part of STEM research is that things often do not work out the first time around. Most of the time, things go wrong and starting over again is necessary.

I had to start over two or three times for my research last year, which was frustrating. However, working through those challenges enabled the final results to be more satisfactory.

Repeated exposure could potentially lead to gut dysbiosis and its serious associated diseases including cancer, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and many others. 

The best part is seeing the results and thinking about how the research can help people.

CURRENT STEM PROJECTS: I am currently working on potential ways to more effectively replicate the human gut microbiome. The human gut consists of thousands of micro-organisms and being able to replicate this diversity and complex system would make my research more realistic. I am looking at potential ways to better analyze the effects of Roundup on the human gut microbiome.

Broadcom MASTERS ... inspired me to pursue my passions and [gave] me the confidence not to give up when times are tough.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE COMPETITIONS LIKE BROADCOM MASTERS: Broadcom MASTERS has inspired me to pursue more research. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I greatly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to apply for it. Finals week in D.C. has truly been lifechanging as it has inspired me to pursue my passions and given me the confidence not to give up when times are tough.

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