Design and Verification of a Modified Ichip to Incorporate Coculturing of Soil Microbes; Examining the Process of Research to Grow Unculturable Microbes using Actor Network Theory

Costlow, Gabrielle, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Papin, Jason, MD-BIOM Biomedical Eng, University of Virginia

There is a rise in antibiotic-resistance infections leading to poor efficacy of current treatments with antibiotics. Bacterial infections that may have been easily treated with antibiotics are now unable to be treated. This crisis has developed due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in addition to less and less new drug development. One of the reasons for the lack of antibiotic development is potentially from the inability to culture bacterial microbes within the environment. Microbes are able to produce secondary metabolites that could be used for creating antimicrobial and antibiotics. Most of the pharmaceuticals produced such as vaccines, antibiotics, and other antimicrobials are made by microbes found in the soil. Therefore, discovering a way to culture microbes that have been unculturable could provide an alternative treatment to bacterial infections that have become antibiotic resistant. The technical thesis proposes a modification of an existing device to incorporate co-culture to enhance the growth of unculturable microbes. Soil microbes have access to byproducts produced by other microbes, nutrients, and additional interactions with their environment. Therefore, with the modifications, the goal of the project was to determine if the natural interactions of the microbes could be mimicked within a laboratory setting. Leading to the creation of a device that could potentially allow for the discovery of a new species of microbes that produce a particular compound for creating a novel antibiotic. The STS thesis explores my personal experience of research as I complete my technical project known as the Capstone project. This experience examines how I came to become a part of the Capstone project and the challenges that I had faced. Specifically looking at the components or actors that played a role in achieving the goal that was set out for the technical thesis. As research is unpredictable, the pathway for conducting the experiments did not always go as planned. Other key players became involved to alleviate the obstacles that were faced, ultimately leading to a different outcome than what had been expected. This is not necessarily bad, instead, aids in a transformation of character and objective in order to achieve the original goal of growing unculturable microbes. In conclusion, there was much to gain from working on these projects. The technical project allows for a hand-on approach to research from beginning to end. Understanding the complexity of performing experiments as well as overcoming challenges that may be unexpected. Working through the difficult situation to achieve results alerting the project is progressing. The STS project gave time to reflect on the technical project by examining the situation from a different perspective and observing how the project started to where it had finished, regardless of whether the goal had been met. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Papin’s lab members, Dr. Allen, Dr. Barker, Professor Ferguson and Dr. Papin for their assistance with my projects.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Actor Network Theory

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Jason Papin
STS Advisor: Sean Ferguson
Technical Team Members: Gabrielle Costlow, Jack Stalfort

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