Congratulations to the 2014 Lowcountry Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winner Irene Cheng! Irene presented her research on the Antibacterial Agent Triclosan as a Growth Inhibitor of Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Basically, Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent used in commercial goods since 1972 and is now found in a variety of household items and personal care products. Irene researched whether this agent was able to control or kill certain strains of bacteria. What she found was that Triclosan can stop the growth and reproduction of bacteria as long as the concentration of Triclosan-containing hand soap was sufficient.
Studies like Irene’s are important as the Food and Drug Administration crack down on agents that are considered antibacterial but that may be harmful to humans and the environment. For example, there are questions about Triclosan’s effect on the body’s endocrine system. In addition, an environmental working group found that more than 75% of the population has Triclosan in urine and is passed out of our systems making its way to our lakes, rivers and streams. Understanding these antibacterial agents will provide scientists and the public with a better knowledge of whether they are truly useful in combating bacteria or if they are too harmful to the environment to continue use.
With this research, Irene won the Lowcountry Regional Science and Engineering Fair, held in April at the College of Charleston and presented at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), this May in Los Angeles, CA. Of her trip to the Intel ISEF, she said, “The trip was absolutely amazing and inspiring! The people we met from all over the world were so smart, creative, and innovative! The trip was honestly life changing and I feel so grateful to have been able to have gone.” The LHSM was proud to have Irene represent the Lowcountry of South Carolina at the Intel ISEF. Her trip was made possible through a donation by the Charleston Defense Contractors Association.
Irene currently is a senior at Academic Magnet High School. She worked with faculty at the College of Charleston, specifically Dr. Vijay Vulava, Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, in her data collection and analysis. She is planning on attending the Honors College at Clemson University this fall on a full ride – Wow! She plans to major in Biology or Biomedical Engineering, continuing her research career, eventually working towards a Masters and PhD.
As the Intel ISEF says…the future is indeed bright for these science fair participants. And it is indeed bright for our own Irene Cheng.