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Innovation Month Student Highlights

Caleb Renshaw
Undergraduate Researcher

Senior, Biochemistry and Philosophy; Minor: Mathematics

Renshaw, from Boise, studies how mutations in bacteria can improve their growth. He looks at the specific chemical reactions, or metabolic pathways, needed for growth, and compares the growth of bacteria with baseline metabolic pathways to those with mutated metabolic pathways.

What are you hoping to gain from your involvement with the Undergraduate Research Symposium?

“I want to get experience with the process of publication and presentation. You can have the most beautiful data but that doesn’t mean a lot if you can’t share it or explain it in a way that people can understand. As for what I have gained from doing research, I now have a healthy appreciation for the fact that all of science is trouble shooting.”

How did you come up with your research project?

“Bacteria don’t want to just have the best pathway. They want to have a system for finding the best pathway. A system that allows for experimentation and adaptation increases the types of environments that the bacteria can handle. They are better prepared for the unexpected. Our project may show how bacteria acquire a new metabolic pathway and use that to improve its ability to function.”

How will your findings change the world?

“These bacteria, Methylobacterium extorquens, live on plant leaves. The bacteria feed on toxic methanol produced by the plant and then give their waste products back to the plant. If we have an understanding of that interaction, we can design bacteria to be even more beneficial to the plant and introduce the improved bacteria to the plant. This could increase crop yields for either biofuels or food.”

Caleb Renshaw, Undergraduate Researcher
Caleb Renshaw

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