Student Takes First Place at Plant Biology Conference

Lea Adepoju, a senior majoring in astrobiology, won first place in the undergraduate poster section at the American Society of Plant Biologists annual meeting for the Southern Section March 26-28.

Adepoju is interested in growing cyanobacteria using Martian regolith as a nutrient source. To accomplish her science, she designed and built her own bioreactors, noted Andrew Palmer, associate professor of biological sciences and Adepoju’s advisor.

Her project, which she is finalizing for the upcoming North Grumman Student Design Showcase, is “Bioleaching and Hydrogen Production of Anabaena in Presence of JEZ-1 simulant: Possible Fuel For Space Exploration?”

In her abstract, Adepoju said utilizing on-site resources will be critical to successful space colonization efforts. Regolith, for example, can be a source of inorganic nutrients for microorganisms associated with bioregenerative life support systems and other applications. For her project, she put a cyanobacteria (Anabaena cylindrica) into her self-made photobioreactor to determine its ability to “biomine accessible nutritional elements” from Jezero Crater regolith.

The annual meeting, held in Birmingham, Ala., attracted about 120 plant biologists from 14 southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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