Middle School Microbes Spark Career Interest

This high school graduate is starting college this fall in microbiology, pursuing an interest she tracks back to a middle school science project.

Gabby Irons with elementary and middle school projects and in graduation cap and gown.
Above: Gabby with elementary school and high school science projects and at her recent high school graduation.

Gabby Irons, a recently graduated high school senior, did a project in middle school that sparked an interest in microbiology that stuck.

Inspired by her mother, a soil and water scientist, Gabby says she has always been interested in science. As a child, agar plates, slides, and microscopes were always around, and Gabby describes herself as having an "unfathomable curiosity with microbes" in elementary school.

Her early science projects, however, were about animals, another area of interest. "I particularly remember a project on sea otters I decided to do after seeing them at the Tampa Bay Aquarium," says Gabby.

In 7th grade, Gabby says she wanted to find a project on her own, one that would make her mom proud. Browsing microbiology projects online, she found the Which Acne Medication Can Really Zap That Zit? project at Science Buddies. "I thought the combination of using bacteria and acne was interesting and different," recalls Gabby, "so I decided it would be my project. My favorite part of the whole experience was watching the E. coli lawns grow. I thought it was so cool to be able to see bacteria and interact with it (safely of course)." Gabby won first place in her regional science fair with that project, and her interest in microbiology blossomed.

Pivotal School Science Projects

"Without a doubt, completing that project made me more focused on becoming a microbiologist later in life," says Gabby, who will be attending Stetson University in the fall and majoring in microbiology. "For a long time, I wanted to be a pharmacist, but doing the [middle school] project reinforced my deep passion for microbes and made me realize my full potential."

Gabby feels sure she would have landed in a science field regardless, probably something in biology or chemistry, but she attributes her middle school science project to putting her on her current STEM career path. "Experiencing a micro lab showed me just how awesome the particular subject is."

In addition to science, which she describes as her "main hobby," Gabby is interested in video production and was involved in TV production during all four years of high school. "I love to make travel montages to post on YouTube, and I hosted a segment on our school's morning announcements known as 'Science Spotlight.' In it, I showed and explained science demos to the student body in an effort to show people how fun science is. Some people at school even called me 'science girl.'"

Gabby's two favorite scientists are Alexander Fleming and Alan Turing. "I am inspired by Fleming, who was a microbiologist, because his discovery of the first antibiotic really shows how accidents are OK in science."

"My favorite thing about science is that there is always more to be discovered," says Gabby. "This means you never stop learning."

"Without a doubt, completing that project made me more focused on becoming a microbiologist later in life. For a long time, I wanted to be a pharmacist, but doing the [middle school] project reinforced my deep passion for microbes and made me realize my full potential."
Gabby Irons

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Have you used a science project, STEM activity, or Lesson Plan from Science Buddies in your class or program? We would love to hear your story! Email us at scibuddy@sciencebuddies.org and tell us how you use Science Buddies with students.



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