Dr. Radiah Minor, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science, mentored four students in an undergraduate research program funded by the National Science Foundation. The four students – Lauren Blackwell, Christina Bradshaw, Maya Brooks and Zavier Eure – completed swine-related research projects during the 2016-2017 academic year.

The program, North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (NC-LSAMP), seeks to increase the number of talented students completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees and enrolling in STEM graduate programs.

“Participation in research such as that supported by LS-AMP allows students to ‘see’ the real world applications for and put into action the concepts that they learn in class,” Minor says. “As the students continue to perform experiments, collect data and present to peers, I have witnessed increased confidence and greater interest and excitement about the research process.

“I am grateful to NC-LSAMP for allowing me to participate in this program as a mentor. It gives me great satisfaction to see these students not only grow into scientists, but see themselves as scientists.”

The four students, all majoring in animal science, have each presented their research at scientific meetings.

Lauren Blackwell studied whether segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) was present in the dust of the university’s swine operations. SFB has been shown in mice to promote maturation of the immune system and may have a similar effect on piglets, which are often weaned before their immune systems have fully developed. A series of tests confirmed that the bacteria was present in samples taken at the swine operations.

Christina Bradshaw studied the size and morphology of SFB in piglets before, during and after weaning. Tests found the bacteria in fecal samples collected before, during and after weaning. The post-weaning samples showed more segments of all sizes compared to the weaning and pre-weaning samples. This suggests that there may be a difference in SFB colonization at different ages.

Maya Brooks studied the presence of SFB in different stages of a piglet’s growth. Fecal samples were collected and evaluated for the presence of the bacteria in samples collected when a particular piglet was 9, 12, 16, 18 and 24 days old; the piglet was weaned when it was 18 days old. SFB was detected in all the samples.

Zavier Eure studied whether SFB could be detected in the lungs of swine raised in confinement operations. DNA was isolated from the upper, middle and lower lobes from the left lung of one adult pig. Preliminary results detected general bacteria and SFB in the middle and lower lobes of the lung.