By Sarah Yenesel

Senior Riley O Neal shows her petri-dish in which she swabbed a sample from a face mask she wore all day in order to test bacteria growth on face masks at Jackson High in Jackson on Jan. 21, 2021. Her hypothesis is that the there will be more bacteria growth on a face mask she wears the whole school day than one she only wears half of the school day.

Jackson Senior High School went from three students entering the Southeast Missouri Regional Science Fair in 2019, to being one of the top schools the next year with 31 students participating and 17 projects submitted.

This year, the district has 14 projects by 14 students submitted to the virtual fair this month, the numbers down because of the challenges of the pandemic and recent winter weather.

While the pandemic put a temporary halt to the JHS science program’s growth after the fair in March 2020, students and science teacher at JHS, Leanne Thele, have made efforts to keep it going.

Senior Lily Hofman uses a small amount of anaesthesia to put her fruit flies to sleep so she can count them for her experiment that tests oxidation stress on the flies reproduction during her free period at Jackson High in Jackson on Jan. 11, 2021. Hofman wants to become a gynecologist and chose her experiment to reflect her interest in the field, but cannot test on human subjects.

Junior Reagan Newell wants to become a dentist, so she centered her project around teeth. Newell was able to measure the effect of sugar, specifically skittles, on the enamel of human teeth with a specialized tool from Dr. Dana Cotner’s office in Cape Girardeau.

Cotner has been Thele’s dentist for more than 20 years. Through their connection, Cotner agreed to let Newell use a supply of extracted human teeth and the tool from her office.

“This is giving me a head start [for college],” Newell said about her project.

Junior Reagan Newell removes a tooth from her skittle solution so she can record the amount of enamel it has after it soaked in the solution in the break room of Cotner Dental in Cape Girardeau on Dec. 15, 2020.

Senior Mallorie Coffee is continuing her research into avoiding the problem of antibiotic resistance by testing her chemical-based treatment for strep throat in a specialized lab at Southeast Missouri State University with the help of a professor.

She is one of three seniors, all from JHS, selected by St. Louis-based not-for-profit, Science Coach, in October from a four-state region to be awarded a $1,000 research stipend for the projects they are submitting for the upcoming science fair. All three seniors were the only recipients of the selective stipend.