At the 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) international meeting in Vancouver B.C., biology major Alex Sorum won the student poster competition in the medicine and public health category. Alex won with his poster titled, “Effects of Airway Epithelial Secretions on Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilm Formation” which presented the research he did as a Sundquist Scholar with biology assistant professor Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright during 2011.
Sorum did research on the bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria that affects about 80 percent of cystic fibrosis patients by the age of 18. The bacteria is difficult to treat because it forms a biofilm in the lungs that protects it against antibiotics and white blood cells. He harvested secretions from a non-cystic fibrosis lung model and applied them to the bacteria to test whether the lung secretions would inhibit the formation of the biofilm.
For Sorum, simply attending the conference and presenting his research alongside students from U.S. and Canadian universities and colleges was rewarding. “The biggest thing for me was seeing that going to a small liberal arts college, you can be competitive with large research universities. Just being able to share my results was enough for me as a scientist, but it was definitely a surprise to win.”
The AAAS 2012 poster competition was open to students actively working toward an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree. Posters were judged on content, and presenters were judged on their ability to present their findings to an audience. As a winner, Alex will receive a cash award, a framed certificate, and a one-year subscription to Science. Additionally, he will be recognized in an upcoming issue of Science as well as on the AAAS website. Alex’s trip to present at AAAS 2012 was funded by Augsburg’s Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) office.