Wider Horizons

Chloe Devoy comes to Lethbridge College like clockwork, bounding up the four flights of stairs that lead to biology Chloe Devoy and Tom Grahaminstructor Tom Graham’s labs perched at the top of the Cousins Building. The grade 10 St. Francis Junior High student arrives with big ideas and big questions, looking for science and solid research to supply the answers. Her work is getting results. Last year, after working in Graham’s labs, the Lethbridge student won a junior gold medal at the Canada Wide Science Fair for her project on antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in meat. Under Graham’s guidance, she continued that research this past year and went on to receive two bronze medals and $1,100 in scholarship money at the national science fair in May. Wider Horizons sat down with Chloe and Tom to talk about her research and where it might take her.

Wider Horizons: Chloe, how did you get interested in the subject of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and meat?

Chloe: I got the idea for developing a project on antibiotic-resistant bacteria as my mother, a Registered Nurse, would warn against my going to the doctor asking for antibiotics for every little sniffle or cold I had. From this idea and further discussion with my mother, I learned more regarding the concept of antibiotic resistance and “super bugs” that can no longer be treated with antibiotics. This is when I discovered that use of antibiotics in animals and the plants is also contributing to the problem of antibiotic resistance. From my research last year I discovered an isolated E.coli bacterium from organic turkey to be 100 per cent resistant to the antibiotics. This year I decided to examine the ground retail meat as I became concerned that over 50 per cent of antibiotic use worldwide is used in livestock and is contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

WH: What do you hope your research might lead to?

Chloe: I would like to create awareness regarding the impact of overuse of antibiotics in our livestock population is having on humans. I would eventually like to see a program that educates farmers, people in agriculture and anyone involved in animal production that we need to stop using antibiotics as growth promoters or disease prevention methods when raising our livestock.

WH: What has it meant to be able to work in a lab and with Tom?

Chloe: Tom has been a great mentor and support in my research. Without his involvement, I would not have been able to investigate this health concern. This project involved countless hours spent in the lab and Tom has always been willing to share his experience, knowledge and time with me. I would not have been able to complete this research without his involvement and the support of Lethbridge College.

WH: What do you like to do when you’re not at school or in the lab?

Chloe: I love playing competitive hockey, soccer and running track. When I’m not at the lab I enjoy camping and spending time with my friends and family.

WH: Tom, why did you think it was important to work with Chloe on this project?

Tom: It is important for Lethbridge College and its faculty to help provide expertise to all members of the community. So when our Chair of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Dr. Edith Olson, asked if anyone was interested in helping some science fair students with their projects, the Microbiology group jumped in to volunteer their time to help the students. We are so proud that at last year’s Canada Wide Science Fair, the two students that we supervised in the Junior Division won gold (Chloe) and bronze and the three in the Senior Division won silver and two bronzes.

WH: Where do you think Chloe’s research will take her?

Tom: For Chloe, the sky is the limit. She works very hard and has great instincts for this work. She has that innate curiosity that makes her question everything. For me, this indicates that Chloe will be a great researcher if she chooses to take that path, but I already know she will be great at whatever she decides to do because that is Chloe.

To hear more about this partnership, check out learn.lc/chloedevoy, learn.lc/ASTech2013 and learn.lc/ASTech2014.

Wider Horizons
Lisa Kozleski
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