Research Spotlight: Mealworm Plastics

In light of the ongoing disruption that Coronavirus poses to our lives, which includes the cancellation of our annual MST Research Symposium, we are publishing a series of posts on MST students and their research that have been peer selected for excellence.

We asked each group selected to give us info on their abstract, the biggest takeaway from their project study, and something they are excited about for the upcoming year, as well as a few photos.  This post covers work done by MST Freshmen Stefanie Valent-Musleh, Ava Wagner, Emma Sadewasser, and Paige Frawley

Abstract: Plastic is a major pollutant that contributes to ecosystem destruction throughout the world. For this reason, finding a way to degrade plastic is imperative. Most studies indicate that mealworms are able to degrade polyethylene, but not at a fast enough rate to combat pollution. However, our research aimed to see if chemically modifying plastics by adding organic materials that are common food sources of mealworms, leads to an increase in the rates in which they can degrade plastic. After several trials, we discovered that the mealworms consumed the modified plastic at higher rates than the unmodified plastic, showing plastic has the potential to become a sustainable and clean method of reducing plastic pollution. Read more about their project study here: Mealworm Plastics 

“Our biggest takeaway from this year is that time management is very important. When performing an experiment, you need to understand what needs to be accomplished, and when those tasks need to be completed. Not having good time management skills can ultimately lead to tasks being rushed and/or not completed by deadlines. Towards the end of our experiment, our group worked towards making a strict schedule that we would follow in order to complete our project on time.”

As for next year, the team reported that they “… are excited to investigate other areas of science in order to further our knowledge about various fields and develop solutions to modern problems facing our world. We’re also looking forward to incorporating biological principles into our upcoming projects. Furthermore, we are eager to strengthen our relationships with the rest of the magnet community.”


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