SHS students succeed in science fairs

From left to right: Ada Fulgham, Byronie Mandal, Javad A’arabi, Minjae Cho, Michael Lu, Dennis Lee, Guillermo Hoffman Meyer, Zykaria Rogers and SHS biology teacher and Excalibur Science Club sponsor Michael Adam. The students, all members of the Excalibur Science Club, placed in regional and state science fairs this year. A’arabi and Lu will continue on to the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

Starkville High School will be well-represented at the 2018 Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh.

Senior Javad A’arabi and freshman Michael Lu will both compete at the science fair after winning their respective categories at the regional and state levels. Both students are members of the SHS Excalibur Science Club, which recognizes students who excel in science. All Excalibur students prepare science projects. The club is sponsored by biology teacher Michael Adam.

Several other Excalibur students placed in the regional and state science fairs, including junior Minjae Cho, sophomore Ada Fulgham, the group of sophomores Dennis Lee and Guillermo Hoffman Meyer, sophomore Byronie Mandal and freshman Zykaria Rogers.

A’rabi’s project examined using lactobacillus bacteria and organic acids as an alternate means of treating poultry with necrotic enteritis, a disease devastating to the industry. He said he had spent time doing research in labs at Mississippi State University, and had been required to attend safety trainings to handle some of the bacteria he worked with.

He described the experience of working in the labs at MSU.

“It really changes your perspective on the science world,” A’arabi said. “In the classroom, you don’t really get a specific view of the science world, but inside the lab, or with a professor, you have to go into a more specific field of study.”

A’arabi explained the importance of his study, saying necrotic enteritis cost the poultry industry billions of dollars every year.

“Major corporations like McDonalds and Chick-fil-A try to improve their grade of chicken by not using antibiotics, but not using antibiotics causes a huge problem, because potentially hazardous bacteria easily infect chickens, but there’s no alternative strategy,” A’arabi said. “What I’m trying to include in my study is an alternative strategy to treat chickens without using antibiotics.”

A’arabi said he plans to study biology in college, but is unsure what school he will attend.

Lu’s project was in the computer science realm, with ties to biology and pathology.

“AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning that we have today, it’s useful in many areas of research, so I decided to try to apply it on the genetic code of protein, like the amino acid to try to find patterns that tell you basically whether or not a bacteria is pathogenic to humans or not,” Lu said.

Lu’s research focused on burkholderia bacteria.

Adam said he was in the process of putting together a panel of MSU faculty to review their presentations prior to the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in May.

“We are fortunate to have strong academically performing students, and we have good relationships with people at the university that work with them, mentor them and allow them to work in their labs,” Adam said.