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1 March 2017 Searching for Nitrogen-Fixing Microorganisms: An Original, Relevant, and Successful Early Research Experience
Amaya Garcia Costas, Devon L. ragen, John W. Peters
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A five-week research project was designed as part of a summer internship for high school students, and could also be used with educators or in introductory undergraduate research courses. This is a guided-inquiry-based project, framed within the significant issue of supplementing fertilizer use in agriculture with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms. This experience exposes students to how scientists are studying real-world problems; it teaches them basic research techniques, and promotes inquiry-based learning in a real research environment. It also fills a current gap in K-12 education that lacks enough microbiology emphasis. Research interns collect soil samples from various fields and use culture-dependent and culture-independent techniques to test whether there are nitrogen-fixing microorganisms that can be isolated and identified in each soil sample. Students work in a research laboratory making nitrogen-free media; culturing, isolating, and identifying microorganisms; extracting soil DNA; and amplifying the 16S rRNA and nifH genes. We administer a pre-test and a post-test, and students present their research both in a short talk and with a poster. By hosting high school students in a research laboratory and immersing them in laboratory science, we hope to inspire them to pursue a STEM-related career.

© 2017 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page,
Amaya Garcia Costas, Devon L. ragen, and John W. Peters "Searching for Nitrogen-Fixing Microorganisms: An Original, Relevant, and Successful Early Research Experience," The American Biology Teacher 79(3), 191-197, (1 March 2017).
Published: 1 March 2017

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early science research
high school science research
microbial ecology
nitrogen fixation
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