In the Spring 2014 semester, 34 freshmen along with 7 upper-division mentors completed a series of skill development exercises that produced authentic data on a wide range of topics including the diversity of the student’s oral microbiome, the public health of the creek on UT campus, and the diagnostic potential of molecular techniques on saliva.



Oral Microbiome Metagenomics

  • Students designed ethics board approved study linking bacterial diversity/abundance in saliva with health and behavior
    • Generated 81 sequence libraries of oral microbiomes
    • Authored online survey with 114 questions to characterize health/behavior
    • Found tentative correlations between bacteria levels and sleep/gum chewing/hand washing  

Molecular Diagnostic Development

  • Successfully implemented a diagnostic PCR for P. gingivalis
  • 32 diagnoses made based on PCR results
  • Adapted P. gingivalis PCR protocol to novel qPCR diagnostic
  • 107 assays run leading to 31 diagnoses

Public Health Water Quality Assessment

  • Sampled campus creek
    • 28 water samples analyzed
    • 3 different bacteria levels quantified
    • 3 site locations analyzed
  • Surprisingly high bacteria levels found indicating possible sewage leak 

Diagnostic Apps Development

  • Students developed “survey style” apps
  • Brainstormed ideas, developed apps independently
    • Diagnose a wide range of conditions


Dehydration saliva diagnostic

Ear wax (cholesterol) diagnostic

LAMP PCR development: next-gen tool for diagnostic development

Frack water diagnostics: Working with industry partner to develop molecular diagnostics to quantify sulfate reducing bacterial contamination in water produced by hydraulic fracturing

Texas Memorial Museum collaboration: Two summer students received a Joseph Jones Life on Waller Creek fellowship to continue work on creek bacteria

Diagnostic industry collaboration: Negotiated summer internship with local startup diagnostic company to optimize a patent-pending diagnostic device

Summer App Development: Students unable to stay in the lab working remotely on diagnostic app projects

Travel disease risk warnings • Michelle & Katrina • Dallas, TX & Chiang Mai, Thailand

Food recall tracking • Lindsey • Houston, TX & San Francisco, CA

Concussion diagnosis  • Jordan • Austin, TX

Patient-Health Care Assistance • Salvador • Edinburg, TX

Pill identification • Nicole • McKinney, TX

Self exam guides and reminders • Lisa & Alyssa • San Antonio & Laredo, TX

Skin cancer • Rachel • San Diego, CA

Special diet and food allergy • Aurora • Center Point, TX