Student scientists investigate lichen, memories, and Staph. E


Rubi Martin

Rubi Martin studies lichen around Wilsonville. Lichen may be an indicator of environmental health.

Lichen, memories, and bacteria: They are everywhere! But how much have you thought about how air pollutants and scents are affected by them?

Julia Tatsumi studied the connection between scents and memories last year for her ISEF project. Specifically, she used the scents of peppermint and coffee to trigger participants’ memories. The memories were “identified as positive or negative,” Tatsumi said. She used statistical analyses to understand how deeply scents are associated with memories. 

Tatsumi learned that peppermint scents showed a correlation to holiday-season memories. After her work as a science fair student, she learned that she definitely wants to “go into the science/medical field,” more specifically, nursing!

Sophomore Rubi Martin did an ISEF project with a partner last year on the effect that air pollutants have on lichen. They were inspired by measuring air pollution within their community using bioindicators, and wanted to “learn more about how natural habitats in Wilsonville are affected by pollutants.”

“We measured sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide” at various distances from a main road and recorded “how many specimens and how many individual lichens we found.” Martin is continuing her project on lichen this year again. Martin says, “ISEF has provided a ton of direction into different STEM careers in a really engaging and exciting way.”

Grace Haack worked on a project titled “Natural Treatments for Staph. E,” which is a common skin infection. Her goal is “to find a natural cure or treatment” for Staphylococcus Epidermidis, because “finding a more traditional way to treat it can save a lot of money and could prevent Staph E from becoming antibiotic resistant.” Her inspiration was seeing natural medicines being used to fight off bacteria and viruses with their antibiotic properties.

Haack will test cultures of Staph E with the Kirby Bauer method, using garlic’s most prevalent natural antibiotic properties as their natural medicine. Haack doesn’t know what she wants to do in the future, but “ISEF has shown me how impactful these projects could be, and how some of these projects can save lives!” Haack says that it’s really comforting to her that “It’s all just a bunch of high school students wanting to save lives.”