Students present research on probiotics


Photo by: Caleb Reeves

Connor Graham and Gasinee Phuprasertsak research bacteria and yeast levels in probiotics.

After working for hours in the lab researching probiotics, Junior Connor Graham and Senior Gasinee Phuprasertsak presented their research and results at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Phoenix, Ariz.

During the month of November, Graham and Phuprasertsak used research they conducted over the summer of 2017 to present in front of undergraduate and graduate students, university professors, researchers and representatives from organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NASA.

At the conference, Graham and Phuprasertsak attended multiple sessions a day. The pair also said they were able to get constructive feedback on their research.

Graham and Phuprasertsak, along with Jack Evans, Coen Hasenkamp and Paulette Sarrazin, conducted their research on various types of kefir, a probiotic known for helping human gut health. The group worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jennifer Lyles.

The group researched different kinds of store-bought and home-grown kefir as well as various flavors of kefir.

Graham said they did not test the effects of kefir, but instead focused on finding out how many types of bacteria and yeast were in the various kefir samples.

Phuprasertsak said in the commercial kefir, they found about 100 times more probiotic content in kombucha than in the homemade kefir, but overall, there were similar amounts of probiotics in different flavors of kefir. She also said there was more bacteria in the commercial brand and more yeast in the home-made kefir.

Graham said they had to take great care for the kefir to ensure the research was accurate.

“It’s long,” Graham said. “It’s tedious. If you make a mistake, you have to do things over. If you mess up you’ve got to go all the way back.”

Graham also said caring for the kefir was like caring for a pet.

Graham and Phuprasertsak said they also presented their results at the South Carolina Idea Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) conference with the entire group a few days before the ABRCMS conference. INBRE is a conference which seeks to promote research activities.

Phuprasertsak said the research the team conducted can be built upon. She also said she gained skills for medical school applications.

“Presenting at the conference confirms my interest in science,” Phuprasertsak said. “I have come into contact with many people who gave me advice on so many career paths I can take after I graduate.”

Graham said the conference provided her the chance to network with other scientists. She also said through conducting research and presenting at a conference she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in biological sciences or marine biology.

“Going to this conference helped me realize to make the most out of my educational experiences at FMU,” Graham said. “After hearing the requirements of several graduate programs, I realized that I have to focus my attention more on classes I need to be a research scientist.”