SIUC undergrad student discovers new microorganism

Images from Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Microbiology department of the newly...
Images from Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Microbiology department of the newly discovered SIUC-1
Published: Jan. 3, 2019 at 5:13 PM CST
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CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, an undergrad named Amanda Blocker, has made a scientific discovery at only 21 years old.

Blocker discovered a microorganism never seen by anyone before her. She has dubbed it SIUC-1.

Blocker is taking it all in with a humble attitude, saying there is much more work to be done, but she is excited about what is happening.

“Anything can be in it,” she said. "And that anything could be very important to the advancement of science, and we just don’t know about it yet. So we’re trying to.”

Right now, she and her professor, Dr. Scott Hamilton-Brehm, know very little about SIUC-1.

They do know that it thrives in hot temperatures and can’t survive in oxygen. Because of this, they already believe it’s discovery won’t be harmful to humans.

“We’re poisonous to them,” Dr. Brehm said.

Dr. Brehm said they found the microorganism from samples collected in the desert, on the California-Nevada border.

He said they collected samples from a borehole 900 meters deep using sponges tied to fishing lines and left them there for months.

Currently, Blocker and Brehm are trying to do tow things. One, learn as much as they can about the characteristics of SIUC-1 through experiments. And two, figuring out the genetic code, which requires a very powerful computer.

Dr. Brehm said if you were to write down all the genetic data on SIUC-1, or any strain of DNA for that matter, it would take nearly two lifetimes to complete.

Thankfully, they have the computer to do that part, because Blocker said she wants to spend as much time learning about her organism before sharing it with the rest of the scientific community.

“I don’t wanna be one of those people that jumps the gun you know?” she said. "I wanna be sure that it’s solid. I have it. That it’s actually gonna happen.”

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