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“An amazing experience” at Purdue University for one NDGTS Center Guide

Cameron Albers began working as a Center Guide at North Dakota’s Gateway to Science in April 2021. A senior at Center-Stanton High School, she is involved in many extracurricular activities including FFA (she’s the President of the school’s chapter), Envirothon, Science Olympiad, drama, Ag Sales, yearbook, robotics, band, jazz band, and National Honor Society. Cameron shares her experience at a week-long Purdue University program this summer.

Attending Purdue University’s Pre-College Molecular Agriculture Summer Institute (PC MASI) was an amazing experience. The program was “a one-week residential program that allows participants to grow their interests in STEAM areas and experience Purdue’s campus life. To demonstrate research, innovation and discovery in agriculture and science, Purdue Agriculture faculty serve as research mentors of hands-on experiments in their labs throughout the week.”

When I found out about this program, I immediately started my application. I was thrilled to learn I was accepted and that I also received a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the Purdue Ag Alumni.

I attended Purdue’s PC MASI program from June 26 – July 1, 2022, along with 24 other high school students from across the world. During my time at Purdue, I studied the Black Walnut Tree, an allopathic plant. Allopathic plants secrete a compound into their environment that inhibits the growth of surrounding plants. These plants produce a sort of natural herbicide into the environment. The Black Walnut Tree and its fruits secrete a compound known as juglone into the environment that inhibits the growth of the plants surrounding them. The Black Walnut Tree is just one of many allopathic plants.

We collected fruit from a Black Walnut Tree we found in the area. Very few weeds were around the tree, and of the few that were growing, they were very small compared to the weeds further out from the base of the tree. In addition, the grass surrounding the base of the tree was not as healthy as the grass further away from the base.

The experiment that I performed with my group at PC MASI was testing the effects of juglone on Arabidopsis thaliana, a common weed used in research because of its model genome and ability to grow quickly. We tested three different amounts of juglone on these plants to see how it inhibits the growth of plants. We monitored the growth of the Arabidopsis for three days before measuring our plants. We used a digital measuring software known as ImageJ. This software allows you to set a scale and then select areas of an image to measure. After measuring, we concluded that, as expected, the more juglone in a sample, the more defects and overall health issues will be seen in the plants.

Attending the Purdue program was unlike any experience I have ever had before. The equipment and technology that I was able to use and experience was next level. One of the coolest parts of attending PC MASI was working with students who have the same passion as myself, like innovating and improving agriculture. I would recommend to anyone to attend one of the programs Purdue has during the summer. As I start applying to colleges, I am considering Purdue as one of my choices to attend after graduation as I plan to major in agriculture biotechnology.

~ Cameron Albers