Two alumnae of The Summit now have a manuscript published in the Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI). “The presence of Wolbachia in Brood X cicadas” was co-authored by 2022 graduates Cecilia Hasan and Reagan Sutton and their mentor, Dr. Jessica Replogle, as part of the Schiff Family Science Research Institute (SRI) at The Summit.
The peer-reviewed journal article details the students’ research study exploring the prevalence of Wolbachia, an inherited bacterial symbiont, in Brood X cicadas. It was written while they were seniors at The Summit.
Hasan and Sutton’s interest in learning molecular biology techniques led them to base their research project on cicadas and take advantage of the Brood X emergence in 2021. The trio tested for Wolbachia presence after they collected 100 cicadas, visually identified the two different emerging species, isolated DNA, and screened the DNA for the presence of a specific region of Wolbachia DNA using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In the end, one infected cicada was found.
Once the samples were analyzed, the scientists submitted the results to a database maintained by a program called “Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project” at Pennsylvania State University. The Wolbachia Project encourages teachers, students and citizen scientists all over the world to search for arthropods harboring this unique symbiont. Cecilia and Reagan worked closely with The Wolbachia Project scientists, who provided key reagents and controls for the PCR and thoughtful discussions on the results. Now, Summit's SRI scientists are part of a global collaboration contributing to Wolbachia research.
“From beginning to end, Cecilia and Reagan were thoughtful and professional in their project design, molecular methods, data analysis and communication,” says Sarah Bordenstein, M.S, director of Discover the Microbes Within. “The ability to analyze results with an open mind and explore all potential explanations is true science.”
Scientists in the Schiff Family Science Research Institute conduct hands-on field work and are trained in drafting and formatting scientific articles. Each of the three cicada researchers contributed to the final report which was submitted, edited, peer reviewed and ultimately accepted for publication by JEI, an achievement that few high school students can claim. Dr. Replogle knows there is value in giving students the opportunity to become published science researchers.
“They were able to experience the peer review process during the time of COVID,” she said. “Not only did they go through multiple rounds of review and revisions, but they also experienced the same delays that all real scientists were experiencing due to the impact of strained systems. It speaks to the authenticity of their project.”
In the eight years emerging scientists have participated in the Schiff Family Science Research Institute at The Summit, this is only the second full research paper accepted for publication, according to Dr. Replogle.
Cecilia now attends Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Reagan is a freshman at the University of Southern California. To see their manuscript, click here.