Office of Undergraduate Research Undergraduate research will set you apart.

Recently in Research: Sara Odom


Sara Odom

Polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is a method used to make many copies of a small section of DNA, typically a part of a larger gene. This copied fragment can then be sequenced and identified, but there are shortcomings to the most commonly used methods, such as a lack of taxonomic resolution and distortion of microbial abundance. Sara Odom, a senior majoring in Microbial, Cellular and Molecular Biology, is working to develop a new PCR procedure that allows researchers to address these shortcomings, so they are able to produce more detailed and accurate information from environmental DNA.

The first step of Odom’s approach was the development of degenerate primers that could target gyrB across a wide range of bacteria.  While Odom did not develop the primers, she did get to see the process of how they are designed and was involved in testing them against DNA sequences via primer mapping software. Next, Odom tested them in lab. PCR consists of two stages: the linear stage where the targeted section of template DNA is initially copied and the exponential stage where the copied DNA segments, also known as amplicons, are also copied.

Odom has seen consistent production of amplicons from these primers and new PCR procedure on both mixed culture and environmental DNA samples. Soon, she will start sequencing the amplicons, which will allow her to confirm the identity of the amplicons and compare amplified ratios to known ratios, allowing for confirmation of the procedure’s goal.

Odom said the most rewarding part of doing undergraduate research is getting to be involved with active science and interacting with other students and professors involved in research.

“I feel like my experience with undergraduate research has helped me to both understand certain topics, like PCR, better than when I just learned about them in class, as well as given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the scientific process and the research field as a whole,” Odom said.

Odom is working alongside her mentor Dr. Mark Liles, and Ph.D. candidate Cody Rasmussen-Ivey.

Last modified: April 16, 2018