Three South Jersey students are headed to Phoenix next month due to their research regarding local flora and its antimicrobial and antibiotic activity.
Riya and Saarth Chaturvedi, of Eastern Regional High School, and Vijay Ramu, of Cherokee High School, worked together this past fall and winter on an experiment from their interest in the growing resistance of antibiotics by bacteria, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the reason for 2 million infections in the United States each year.
The three wanted to evaluate local plant life and its effect on bacteria in controlling its growth. After taking 24 samples from Voorhees Township, Lindenwold and Atco, the three performed experiments and identified that four of the selected samples were able to inhibit growth through their isolated study.
Having noticed the rise of bacterial infections in recent years, the three students wanted to find a way to potentially help and study the matter the best that they can.
“We wanted to look for new antibiotic activity in plant sources in our local area,” said Riya Chaturuedi. “And we chose plant sources because approximately 40 percent of pharmaceutical products are actually from plant sources.”
With the four plant samples that were found to have antibiotic activity and able to inhibit growth through their research, a few isolated tests showed that these samples performed better at killing bacteria than Amoxicillin.
While worthwhile, the three are hoping to be able to further their studies over the upcoming summer.
“Our plants (in some cases) killed it better than the antibiotic did, so we can make this into an antibiotic basically,” Ramu said. “We’re just trying to continue next year though, because it’s not really the plant, but there’s thousands of parts within it, and our goal for next year is to try to find out what in the plant actually killed the bacteria.”
Their project won first place at the Annual Coriell Institute Science Fair at Camden County College in March, which advanced them to the Delaware Valley Science Fair, where they also won for team projects in April, advancing them to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix this month.
Last year, Ramu won at Coriell, the first stage in the science fair circuit in New Jersey, but was unable to attend the Delaware Valley Science Fair. This year, he says he’s more than happy that he’s been able to make it to an international level with this project.
Meanwhile, Riya Chaturuedi says this has spurred her interest in science to become much more prevalant over the past few months.
“I’m a dancer and always enjoyed that and I didn’t think a science fair, something small, would mean so much,” said Riya Chaturuedi. “But now that I’ve actually done it, it’s been a really good experience and I’m glad I did it.”
The three will travel to Phoenix and stay for about a week, and say they are looking forward to meeting others from around the country to enjoy the experience. Moving forward, the three say now they also want to pursue science in college.
“Before this, we had different interests and didn’t really think this would be as interesting as it was,” said Saarth Chaturuedi. “Once we started working on it, it became so much more interesting.”
Yajamana Ramu, a senior research investigator at the University of Pennsylvania, mentored the students along the way to watch over their research. The students said they owe much to his guidance along the way, while he said their hard work paid off with the high success rate at the end of the research.
“This is going to be an ongoing, continuing project because it shows promise,” Yajamana Ramu said. “Every drug has a limitation, and nowadays antibiotic resistance is on the rise.”
He also said he hopes the students are able to partner with a local college in the South Jersey area to assist with conducting further studies for their research this summer, as they plan to expand their project.