• Name: Jamee Nixon, Ph.D.
  • Institution: Northwest Nazarene University
  • Department: Biology
  • Phone: 208-467-8677
  • Email: jnixon@nnu.edu

Summary: Zinc oxide (ZnO) has received a lot of attention in recent years; it has attractive electronic properties, it is relatively inexpensive, it is easy to prepare, and it is an environmentally friendly alternative to other semiconductors.  The uses for ZnO vary, including ceramics, cosmetics, sunscreen, photocatalysts, and recently, as an antibacterial.  Zinc oxide has been shown to be an antibacterial agent resulting in growth inhibition against E. coli and methicillin-resistant S. aureus.  In published studies, ZnO nanoparticles of varying size, shape, and concentration are used to inhibit the growth of bacteria.  For this project, ZnO will be evaluated as an antibacterial agent against Pseudomonas aeruginosaP. aeruginosa is a bacterium that is very problematic for burn patients as well as a major player within nosocomial infections.  P. aeruginosa is also gaining publicity due to strains becoming multi-drug resistant.  Therefore, it is important to continue to look for additional methods to treat P. aeruginosa infections.

The overall goal for this project is to identify different ZnO nanoparticles that have antibacterial properties against P. aeruginosa.  A variety of ZnO nanoparticles will be investigated including commercially available nanoparticles as well as nanoparticles synthesized on site at Northwest Nazarene University.  The different ZnO nanoparticles will be used to determine if the size and shape of the nanoparticles influences the antimicrobial properties of ZnO.  Experiments will involve growing P. aeruginosa in the presence or absence of ZnO and measuring growth through spectrophotometry and by serially plating the bacteria to determine CFUs looking for changes in the growth curve and measuring percent inhibition.  SEM will also be used to view the cells following treatment.

Minimum Classes: General Biology, Microbiology lecture and laboratory courses, Genetics is also preferred.


Project 1 – Students will maintain tissue culture cells.  These cells will be stimulated with UV-killed antibiotic treated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or LPS.  RNA will be extracted from these cells or supernatants from the stimulation will be collected.  The RNA will be transcribed to cDNA and PCR will be used to analyze cytokine transcripts.  Supernatants will be assessed for secreted cytokines by ELISA.
Project 2 – Students will be assigned a sequenced genome to assemble and annotate. This will require students to learn to use sequence assembly and annotation software. Students will learn to annotate biochemical pathways of interest and then generate testable hypotheses. Students will then design appropriate microbiological experiments that will refute or help support their in silco hypotheses.
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