SURFerÂs first research experience makes waves for DDT
CSULA biochemistry major is a member of CaltechÂs award-winning iGEM team
CSULAÂs biochemistry major Ashley Su visits Harvard during her trip to the iGEM World Championship in Boston.
ÂSURFÂs upÂ for Cal State L.A.Âs biochemistry major Ashley Su and her fellow researchers, who recently won a gold medal at the International Genetically Engineered Machine CompetitionÂs (iGEM) regional contest.
Su, who was selected to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Program at Caltech, experienced scientific research for the first time this past summer and she became immersed in a project to create a functional bioremediation system in E.coli to degrade one endocrine disrupting compound (EDC).
ÂOur iGEM project was focused on the environment, especially bioremediating EDC in bodies of water,Â said Su. ÂEDCs are chemicals [like DDT] that mimic biological estrogen and negatively affect the reproductive processes of birds and fish.Â DDT was banned in 1972 due to its cancer risk and as a threat to wildlife, particularly birds.
Her team engineered bacteria that can degrade the pesticide DDT to less toxic forms. According to the teamÂs study, bioremediation is relatively cheaper and less disruptive to the environment as compared to traditional forms of pollution removal.
Under the direction of SURF research mentors, Su was able to join the Caltech team in advancing to the iGEM World Championship Jamboree in Boston last month.
ÂThis competition is unique,Â said Su. ÂIt gives undergraduate teams an opportunity to propose their own idea and do research themselves with the guidance of mentors and advisors.Â
As part of the iGEM premiere undergraduate synthetic biology competition, student teams were given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer. Working at school sites over the summer, they used these parts, and new parts of their own design, to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.
ÂThis research experience has been very exciting and fun for me,Â said Su. ÂWe even made a trip to the L.A. River to gather biological samples and found that organisms cultured from the river could grow in the presence of EDC. As my first year conducting research, I am grateful to my Caltech iGEM team members for taking me under their wings.Â
Su, who is currently a sophomore at CSULA, was admitted to the University through the Early Entrance Program (EEP) at the age of 14 to get a head start in pursuing her dream. With a desire to change the world by finding new drugs to cure diseases, she hopes to become a medical doctor or researcher in the future.
At CSULA, she currently serves as public relations chair for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She is also a member of the Foundation of International Medical Relief of Children, Chemistry and Biochemistry Club and the Cancer Awareness Club.
ÂMy time at CSULA so far has been great,Â said Su. ÂItÂs nice to have a small campus like CSULA, where you can walk across campus in 10 minutes. I am also grateful that I am in EEP, where I am given this opportunity to skip high school and go into college early. Coming here has changed me for the better; I am more independent. Although sometimes I feel stressed when there are midterms and finals, itÂs all part of a college studentÂs life.Â
She added, ÂI look forward to continuing my research here at CSULA.Â
Here are links to reference:
- International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM):
- Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Program:
- ÂStudents Take SURF Research to Boston for International CompetitionÂ:
- Early Entrance Program at Cal State L.A.:
- Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Cal State L.A.:
- College of Natural and Social Sciences at Cal State L.A.: