Simpson University Graduate to Present Research at National Council

For Immediate Release


Siby SabuREDDING, Calif. - A recent Simpson University graduate has been selected to present research at the 2014 National Council on Undergraduate Research’s annual meeting this spring.

Siby Sabu, who graduated Jan. 11 from the university’s biology program, will present a project titled, “Phylogeny of Soil Microorganisms in Runoff at an Extreme Acid Mine Drainage Site,” in Lexington, Ky., in April.

His research was chosen from among more than 4,000 submissions and “demonstrates a unique contribution to your field of study,” according to an email from the council review committee.

The project, which focuses on the highly acidic Iron Mountain Mine, a federal Environmental Protection Agency “Superfund” site near Redding, was a collaborative effort also involving biology senior Taylor Polk and Science Department professors Brian Hooker and Trent Smith.

“This is a huge accomplishment for Siby and the research team and marks the Simpson biology program’s first research effort to be presented at a nationally recognized meeting,” Dr. Hooker said. “We are very excited for this and further developments in the research project.”

The team extracted DNA from soil samples at drainage ponds downstream of Iron Mountain Mine and analyzed genes involved in organism identification. Each sample contained more than 50,000 unique sequence identifications.

The discovery of a rather prevalent strain of bacteria known to stimulate an increase in pH (the mine’s runoff has ultralow pH -– the lower the pH, the more acidic it is) lends itself to a potential clean-up strategy, “if indeed this microbe may be augmented to ‘outcompete’ acid-forming bacteria,” Dr. Hooker said.

If that were to happen, the acid in water leaving the mine could be neutralized where it is, he said.

Sabu, a Sunnyvale resident who is pursuing work at a bio-tech firm and graduate school, scored in the 99th percentile in the cell biology portion of the ETS Biology Major Field Test that graduating seniors at nearly 400 colleges and universities nationwide took last year.

He said the opportunity to participate in research as an undergraduate student was valuable on multiple levels, including learning more time management and responsibility, and developing trust in a working environment.

“Research gives you more real-life application beyond coursework and labs,” he said. “This project has really opened my eyes to what it looks like in a science research field and what that entails.”

Photo (of Siby Sabu) by Matt Murnan


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