University of Montana Western biology alumna Rebecca Badgett won the first-place award for poster presentations at the Montana Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting in April 2013.
Badgett's poster, "Generating a LacI-Producing Derivative of Borrelia burgdorferi Strain 297-AH130," detailed her research with UMW Associate Professor of Biology Michael Gilbert in the UMW Biology Research Laboratory studying Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
"...Not all undergraduate students have the opportunity to be involved with a research project, and it's pretty great to attend as small of a college as Montana Western and have the chance to do so," Badgett said.
Badgett said the competition and award took her by surprise.
"To be entirely honest, I wasn't aware that the meeting's poster session was a competition until halfway through the evening," Badgett admitted. "I just thought it would be a good opportunity to present my research poster at a state meeting, so it was very exciting to hear that I had received the award."
Badgett worked in the UMW laboratory since her freshman year, assisting Gilbert with his ongoing research on Borrelia burgdorferi. Genetically, it is a highly unique bacteria and the student and professor worked to learn more about the bacteria's molecular mechanisms of transmission. The goal of the research is to develop a strain of B. burgdorferi that can be genetically manipulated to gain better understanding of the bacteria.
Badgett said the research opened up many new skills and opportunities for her.
"I have enjoyed working on this research project," she explained. "I have gained numerous laboratory skills, a thesis topic and travel opportunities. Also, I had the chance to present this same poster last summer in Washington, D.C. at the National IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence. Not all undergraduate students have the opportunity to be involved with a research project, and it's pretty great to attend as small of a college as Montana Western and have the chance to do so."
Badgett graduated from Montana Western in spring 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and is in the process of applying to optometry schools.