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Bio team rides high at rodeo

SUBMITTED PHOTO — Cathedral senior Sarah Garrity works with insect DNA samples during the Wolbachia Rodeo Nov. 30 at Loyd Star High School in Brookhaven.

NATCHEZ — A love of science is in the Cathedral biomedical research team’s DNA.

Seniors Zoe Flattmann, Sarah Garrity, Pepper Taylor and Lauren McCann participated in a scientific rodeo of sorts recently, and they held on perfectly.

The team extracted DNA from a bedbug, flea and mosquito for the competition, called Wolbachia Rodeo, Nov. 30.

“It felt like we won the Super Bowl,” Taylor said.

The girls are a part of Denise Thibodeaux’s biomedical class, a higher-level science class that admits only select students.

The class is a part of University Medical Center’s rural biomed initiative.

Out of 13 students in the class, Flattmann, Garrity, Taylor and McCann were chosen to go to the competition.

“I didn’t think I could do it when I got there,” Flattmann said. “It was very much a team effort. We checked each other.”

Garrity said the classwork and the competition was intense, but worth it.

“The steps are so precise,” Garrity said. “If you get one thing wrong, it messes up the entire process. You can’t slack.”

McCann felt the pressure, she said.

“It’s a major honor,” McCann said. “It’s great preparation for college.”

The students’ results will go to Woods Hole Marine Laboratory in Massachusetts to be confirmed. The results will then be added to the laboratory’s national data map with the students’ initials.

Thibodeaux said the opportunity for high school students to get their research published is a great resume booster.

“It can make the difference in being selected for a scholarship or honors program,” Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux stressed how difficult the experiment was. She said extracting DNA from an insect is difficult and time consuming on its own, let alone extracting the DNA from a bacteria inside the insect.

“It was the best results we could have hoped for,” Thibodeaux said. “We just all jumped up and down we were so happy.”

For the students, it was an opportunity to put their hard work to the test.

“It’s an experience we’ll never forget,” McCann said.