Sowing Seeds of diversity

Ecotek students come to PSM to learn about life in the lab

The seed for cooperation was first planted when Dr. Eunice Foster met with Ecotek founder, Keith Young, around 2005, when Dr. Foster was Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in CANR. Since then, MSU and Ecotek have had various interactions, including a visit to Kellogg Biological Station and participation in the Multicultural Apprenticeship Program (MAP). Most recently, MSU’s Department of Forestry recruited several students from their Ecotek partnership program.

This fall, professors Eric Patterson (Coordinator), Margaret Fleming, Addie Thompson, Sarah Lebeis, Erin Burns, and Sasha Kravchenko have started a new partnership with Ecotek to introduce youths to the research being done in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. On one Saturday each month, Keith Young brings a group of high-school aged, self-identified plant science enthusiasts from Detroit metro high schools to MSU for four hours of lab work, lunch, and finally, a homework project, which they work on with the equipment at the Ecotek facility in Detroit.

In each professors lab, an Ecotek student works with grad students and lab technicians to identify a project, process samples, and analyze results.

Ecotek student Lindsey will take samples with her to the Ecotek Lab in Detroit, where she will finish preparing them for analysis.
Learning about the role of mass spectrometry in detecting tar spot in corn leaf tissue. From Left, mentor Sidney Sitar, who will graduate with her Master’s degree in 2023, Dr. Addie Thompson, PhD student and mentor Jordan Manchego, Ecotek student Lindsey, and Tony Schilmiller, assistant manager of the Mass Spectrometry and Metabolomics Core. 
In Dr. Sarah Lebeis’ lab, Brittni Kelley (left) Dr. Lebeis (second from left)  Ecotek lab student Haley (middle) and technician Asia Hawkins (right).  Haley is isolating novel soil bacteria to examine how they impact plant growth. 
Haley (left) is setting up a PCR to submit for sequencing, then they will identify the isolates. 
Research assistant Maxwell Oerther, graduate student Jin ho Li, Ecotek student Morgan, and Dr. Sasha Kravchenko review the data together.  “It’s a real challenge to learn how to communicate about the research with people at this level,” Max says. “I have very little experience working with such young people,” says Jin ho Li.  
Dr Kravchenko and Ecotek founder Keith Young discuss lab equipment the students might need to complete their homework assignments at the Ecotek Lab facility in Detroit.
In Margaret Fleming’s lab, PhD student Chloe Grabb (left)  and the EcoTek student Destiny (right) sort seeds from soil. The samples were collected near Gaylord MI. Destiny also extracted RNA from fresh and 63-year-old Verbascum thapsus seeds. At the next meeting we will discuss Destiny's results from sprouting seeds and measure the quality and concentration of the RNA Destiny extracted.
Dana and Kye (Left and right respectively)  working on making a gel to run PCR samples on of herbicide susceptible and resistant horseweed (Conyza canadensis).
Grad student Mohit Mahey works closely with Ecotek student Kye to help her understand what’s going on in the lab.
Ecotek student Dana, Dr. Margaret Fleming, Ecotek student Destiny, PSM graduate student Mohit Mahey, Ecotek student Kye, and Erin Burns. (Left to right)

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