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ncurashe600With their study topics running the gamut from human trafficking to the biodegradation of personal care products, six University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students will present their findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) April 7-9.

Two UW Oshkosh McNair Scholars—Samantha Retzloff, of Oshkosh, and Alyssa Valentyne, of Kimberly —will be among those traveling to attend the conference at the University of North Carolina Asheville.

Both of their research projects deal with bacteria. Retzloff, working with biology faculty mentor Sabrina Mueller-Spitz; and Valentyne, working with chemistry faculty mentor Kevin Crawford, will present “Biodegradation Potential of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products by Freshwater Biofilm Bacteria” and “Bacterial Degradation of Low Molecular Weight Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons; Naphthalene, 1-methylnapthalene and 2-methylnathalene by Mycobacterium,” respectively.

“My research aims to find bacteria that are capable of degrading pharmaceuticals and personal care products present in waste water,” Retzloff said. “Waste water treatment plants do not have the capacity to completely filter out these chemicals, so they remain in the water that is expelled from the treatment plant. My goal was to isolate a bacterium from an environmental biofilm that is able to break down these chemicals.”

Through the project, Retzloff learned about the research process from planning, to literature review and media preparation that all needed to take place before her experiment could begin. “I have a new found appreciation for the amount of dedication and hard work that goes into research,” she said.

Valentyne will present on her investigation into whether bacteria are capable of using polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (which are pollutants) as a carbon source. “The project deals with bioremediation, which is the idea that pollution can be cleaned up simply by the natural metabolic processes of microorganisms,’ she said.

Throughout the research process, Valentyne said she built relationships with her faculty mentors and learned a variety of laboratory techniques. “I was able to develop a variety of skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving and persistence.”

Besides Retzloff and Valentyne, the following UW Oshkosh students will be among the 3,800 from across the nation presenting their research at NCUR:

  • Shanna Geier (Faith Edwards in nursing, “Human Trafficking;
  • Nicholas Grosskopf (Nadia Kaltcheva in physics), “Study of the Star-Forming Field between 180 degrees and 230 degrees and Galactic Longitude;”
  • Elle Moore (Ashley Thompson in psychology), “Is a Kiss Just a Kiss? Predicting Variations in Motivations of Romantic Kissing;” and
  • Yuqi She (Jennifer Schuttlefied Christus in chemistry) “Quanternary Metal Oxide Investigation for Water Splitting.”


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