Big-time science fair for NLS student
NEW LONDON — Josh Proehl's high school summer science project of searching for a natural probiotic by examining the good bacteria in turkey guts will be part of the world's largest international pre-college science competition next month in California.
The junior at New London-Spicer High School will compete against 1,800 students from 75 countries May 14-19 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles.
Being selected to compete in the international science fair is "an honor," he said.
But Proehl has greater hopes of dramatically changing how commercial turkeys are raised in Kandiyohi County and the state by replacing antibiotics typically used in poultry flocks with a natural probiotic.
"It'll be a healthier, safer, cheaper more effective way overall to raise these turkeys and hopefully keep Minnesota on top of the turkey production," he said.
Proehl presented a summary of his research to the NLS School Board April 10.
In the middle of his tri-fold presentation board was the title of his project: Using Genome Sequencing to Develop a Probiotic within the Turkey Gastrointestinal Tract.
The purpose of the project was was to "find a natural probiotic to replace the current antibiotics used in the production of turkeys," he said.
Proehl's project included a mentorship with Dr. Tim Johnson, a University of Minnesota scientist who spends several days a week at the University's Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center lab on the MinnWest Technology campus in Willmar researching turkey probiotics by using sensitive equipment, including a new DNA sequencer.
The hypothesis of Proehl's project was that genome sequencing would produce a "definite group of bacteria" to create a probiotic.
Using antibiotics has been a good method for keeping turkeys big and healthy, he said in his rationale for his project. But the "fear of creating drug-resistant bacteria from the overuse of antibiotics is present."
Creating an effective natural probiotic to replace antibiotics would alleviate the "fear of drug resistant bacteria," he said.
"By using genome sequencings, I was able to successfully isolate a group of bacteria that can be used as a probiotic, or a good bacteria, to naturally replace the antibiotics that are used in turkey production today," Proehl said.
"This is huge, because Kandiyohi County is a massive producer of turkeys," he said. "Just to know there are ways out there to prevent superbugs and to get rid of antibiotics, which have been going downhill for us fast."
Besides the opportunity to win cash prizes at the science fair, Proehl is hoping his research will lead to actual production of natural probiotics to replace antibiotics used by commercial turkey farms.
He said the methods used in his research also have the potential to apply to humans and other species.