By Brendan Miller on January 31, 2024.
A local student is hoping to inspire other girls to explore the opportunities available in STEM fields following her recent success at the Canada Wide Science Fair.
Katelynn Standell is in Grade 10 and was recognized on a national scale for a method she innovated to isolate and grow bacteriophage that are proven powerful in fighting antibiotic resistant infections.
She won the Sanofi Biogenius award relating to programs related to biotechnology, health science and life sciences at the 2023 Canada Wide Science Fair in Edmonton that attracted more than 500 of the brightest young minds from across the country.
Standell hopes to pioneer research in the field of bacteriophage, which she says could help save lives in the future by treating multi-drug resistant bacteria.
“It’s looking to tackle antibiotic resistant infections. Bacteriophage treatment has been shown to effectively fight and destroy bacteria that is resistant to drugs,” says Standell.
Standell’s method makes it easier to isolate and grow bacteriophage by extracting them from “obscure sources” that include river, sewage and well water. Standell has also been able to draw bacteriophage from the soil with mixed results.
“I didn’t discover anything new,” says Standell. “And I didn’t create my own method, it was just kind of showing that it can be done a bit more easily than people suspect.”
However, she was able to take a combination of existing methods to extract and isolate bacteriophage from the environment.
“I researched that in 2019 the CDC said one person every 15 minutes in America will die from antibiotic-resistant infection. So even if this could just help save, you know, maybe one of those people every day it would still make a significant impact,” explains Standell.
Standell says her interest in science began to blossom only two years ago when she was in Grade 8 and she credits her older sister, who is working toward her bachelors of science, for the inspiration.
“I want to continue to make progress and be inspired and STEM community. But I also want to encourage others because maybe they don’t have an older sister like I did to encourage them. I want to encourage them to pursue STEM,” says Standell.
Despite her young age, Standell already has plans to continue pursuing science after she graduates high school.
“Right now my goal is I want to get a bachelors of science and specialize in immunology and infection, which would have a bit to do with bacteria flashes, and maybe pharmacology,” explains Standell.
Last week, Standell was invited to share her experience from the science fair with the public school board.
“The STEM world needs all kinds of different minds,” says Standell. “It’s not just one mind that you learn in school is going to fit, you have to explore things outside of school and you have to explore what you’re passionate about.”