A curious mind pays dividends

A curious mind pays dividends

Adam Martinez of Conestogo is heading to Montreal next month to show off his work in microbiology.

He just won the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair on Apr. 5 and now, he is on his way to compete against Canada’s best.

The Grade 8 student from Centennial Public School in Waterloo submitted a project dealing with ionic silver resistant bacteria, and whether nanosilver could kill the bacteria that had evolved.

Ionic silver has been used since ancient times as an antibacterial substance, says Martinez, and he wanted to see if nanosilver could fill that gap. After plenty of time spent in a microbiology lab at the University of Guelph thanks to a professor he connected with, he found that nanosilver did not kill ionic silver resistant bacteria., and discovered something he wasn’t expecting.

“It turned out that it doesn’t, which is more interesting, because the hypothesis and the reason for it, shows that we don’t understand that resistant mechanism in terms of microbiology,” he explained after he won the regional fair. “It showed that upon the exposure of ionic silver, certain bacteria will actually increase in growth, which is interesting because let’s say there is a patient that has an infection of some sort, and the doctor treats it with ionic silver, if there is resistant bacteria, this shows that it could worsen the patient’s situation.”

Winning the fair’s Award of Excellence, Award of Merit, Best of Division in life science and the Gold Medallion in the Life Science Junior category, Martinez says the experience was eye-opening. He learned a lot.

“It was interesting because I didn’t really know what to expect. There were a lot of other interesting projects there as well. I was wondering what distinguished mine from the other. It was kind of unexpected, but it is all about the science. The fair is one thing, but getting proper research is another,” he said. “The judges got to see it, and the judges are in the field, and it reassured me that I was on the right path with it. That is the main reason I did it. To make this project, you have to rethink your whole narrative from the very beginning, so that it made it clearer, and it was the first time someone else looked at the research. I have some next steps in mind, because the picture is never complete. It is always ongoing.”

There were a few other projects at the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair that piqued Martinez’s interest, but he says he didn’t get a chance to look at them as thoroughly as he wanted to. His focus was on his own work.

The project is going to be the same one he shows at the Canada-wide science fair, and he says he is looking forward to seeing what else is out there.

“It is very exciting. It is going to be great,” he said. “I am glad that my project gets to compete there and I get to see what is going on in the rest of the country, giving me a broader perspective.”

He wanted to thank those who helped him get the top spot at the regional fair, including his parents for driving him where he needed to go.

“I would like to thank, mainly, the professor who gave me the facility. I also have some teachers at school who had a background in chemistry and things like that. It didn’t come out of nowhere that I wanted to work in microbiology. They got into it with me and that developed that way. My parents are supportive as well. They had to drive me to Guelph,” he said with a laugh.

The national fair runs from May 15 to 20. Last year’s fair had over 400 projects from student across Canada on display for judging.

To follow along with the national science fair, visit their website at www.youthscience.ca.

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