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Annie (Mengqi) Wang and Julie Xu

Location: Calgary, AB

Award: Young Canadians

Category:

Year: 2009

Innovation:

Co-culture of Pseudomonas and Prevotella in Agar Beads

News Release

Calgary Youth Fight Cystic Fibrosis with Innovative Science Project
Budding Microbiologists Receive Manning Young Canadian Innovation Awards at National Science Fair


WINNIPEG, MB - (May 15, 2009) Grade 12 students Annie (Mengqi) Wang and Julie Xu have won a Manning Innovation Achievement Award and a Manning Young Canadian Innovation Award for their microbiology project at the 2009 Canada-Wide Science Fair, garnering $4500 in prize money. The young Calgarians developed a method to study bacteria that infect the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that reduces the quality and length of life. The condition is especially common amongst Caucasians as more than a quarter of people of European descent carry a copy of the cystic fibrosis gene. For those born with cystic fibrosis, the build up of sticky mucous in the lungs not only makes it difficult to breath, but also makes the lungs prone to damaging infections. Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria is a common cause of infection. Recent research suggests that another type of bacteria, called Prevotella, may also be involved.

Working at a research lab at the University of Calgary, Wang and Xu developed a method to co-culture the two bacterial types, P. aeruginosa and Prevotella. P. aeruginosa grows well when oxygen is present, but Prevotella grows better in anaerobic conditions, so the students used large agar beads with an oxygen-free centre to culture both bacteria at the same time. The bacteria affect one another's growth, which is an important factor to consider when treating a co-infection.

Both young microbiologists are keen to make a positive difference in the world and are heavily involved in volunteer activities as well as science. Xu, who immigrated to Canada from China at the age of eight, says that these opportunities allow her "to be the best of what both cultures have to offer."

Wang and Xu were among 489 finalists competing at the national fair, held at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, May 9th to 17th. During the week, students from across Canada have competed for nearly $1 million in scholarships and grants. Students also participated in field trips to the National Microbiology Laboratory, the RCMP Forensic Laboratory, and natural history sites.

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation introduced the Young Canadian Program in 1992 to recognize Canada's innovative youth. Each year a judging team selects eight winning projects at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) for a $500 Manning Innovation Achievement Award presented at the CWSF; four of these are selected for a $4000 Manning Young Canadian Innovation Award. The Young Canadian Innovation Awards are sponsored by Petro-Canada (2), the Jim McEwen Family and the Dave Mitchell Family, and are presented at the Foundation's Annual Awards Gala being held this year in Vancouver on September 18th.

Visit www.manningawards.ca for more information and winner videos.

Contact:
Bruce Fenwick, Executive Director, Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, Phone: 403-645-8277 Email: bruce.fenwick@encana.com

Lori Murray, Youth Science Foundation Canada, Phone: (Toll free) 866-341-0040 ext. 3 Email: communications@ysf-fsj.ca