Wheeler Lovett, 17, attended the Georgia Science and Engineer Fair held in Athens, March 29-31. Wheeler and 200 other high school students from around Georgia competed in the senior division, and Wheeler, who competed in the microbiology category, earned an award for excellence in scientific research.
His project was based on the stress responses of bacteria and how various processes allowed for the bacteria to absorb foreign DNA.
Wheeler describes his project, “Humans share about 99 percent of our DNA with each other. However, bacteria of the same species might only share 20 percent of their DNA. Bacteria share their DNA and pass along genes to create diversity. My project was designed to analyze the way that DNA foreign to the bacteria are taken in and expressed. I used a tracking plasmid to determine if bacteria had successfully taken in the gene. The DNA I used is called a plasmid and is a circular piece of DNA that can reproduce independently from the bacteria. The plasmid I used was called pGLO because it contains a gene that allows the bacteria to glow in the dark. I used the glowing bacteria to analyze the procedure that I used to allow the bacteria to become competent. This can be used to study the bacterial membranes and how they respond to stress. By understanding the bacterial structure and function it allows for medicine that specializes in attacking microbial cell walls to be improved.”
Wheeler says the science fair was a very positive experience. “Being able to meet with professors and professionals in the field that I want to go into, and to socialize with other kids who have the same interests that I do, it was pretty fun,” he says.
“Wheeler’s achievement was unique in that he is the only Cairo High School student who has attended the state science fair in more than a quarter century,” says his father, Jeff Lovett.
Wheeler has earned a full scholarship to attend Georgia Southern University where he says he will study microbiology and organic chemistry. He says he wants to continue his education and earn an M.D./Ph.D. so he can work in the field of medical research.
While at the science fair, several biochemical companies based in Georgia offered Wheeler opportunities for internships, which he says he wants to take advantage of once he has some college courses under his belt.
Wheeler is the son of Della and Jeff Lovett of Cairo.