River View SMART team takes on nisin

This school year, Danielle Casey, AgBiotech alumni, organized a SMART (Students Modeling a Research Topic) team at River View High School in Warsaw, OH. To help them with this project, Casey reached out beyond the classroom to an industry researcher.

“In the SMART Team program, students delve into the molecular world, explore science as a process and work closely with a researcher to understand and model the structure-function relationship of a protein.” (from the MSLE Center for BioMolecular Modeling, developer of the SMART Team program) The River View team ound a mentor in GrowNextGen.org’s Industry Leader and Food Science researcher at Ohio State University, Abby Snyder.

Dr Snyder’s research is in antimicrobials that contribute to food safety and stability. During her conversations with the teacher by email and phone, the team decided to study nisin, a protein that contains 34 amino acids and is used as a food additive to control Listeria primarily in dairy products.

The team met weekly throughout the school year. After completing their study, Casey’s students came to OSU’s campus and presented their research to a group of Food Science department faculty and graduate students. The presentation outlined their process and the information they uncovered about how the protein works to break down bacteria that may contaminate foods.

Several students expressed interest in microbiology, biochemistry and other science-related careers. This was a great opportunity for students to “dig deeper” into the science behind a specific biomolecule.

Casey said, “It was really amazing how much work the students did in the time we had. I loved seeing how much they grew in one year’s time. I would recommend the program for any school. If you have anyone interested in discovering more, they are more than welcome to e-mail me. This has been a truly amazing experience and really encompasses project-based learning concepts.”