Two Oakton Community College students received first-place medals in the biology category at the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference's annual STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Poster Competition hosted by Morton College, Cicero, in April.
Ammar Elmajdoub of Des Plaines and Julia Prieto of Niles were recognized for their work, "The Alleopathic Effects of the Shrub Rhamnus Cathartica," which beat out 12 other entries from area colleges.
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Their study focused on the invasiveness of buckthorn. Elmajdoub and Prieto discovered that extracts made from buckthorn berries inhibit the growth of tomato seeds.
The competition is a way to promote interest in STEM disciplines among the eight Skyway Conference members, which also include Elgin Community College, College of Lake County, McHenry County College, Moraine Valley Community College, Morton College, Prairie State College, and Waubonsee Community College.
Students from the Skyway Conference colleges were required to submit a two-page presentation and create a poster related to their topic. A panel of experts from Argonne National Laboratory in Darien critiqued the entries.
Categories also included chemistry, engineering/technology, and physics/mathematics/earth sciences and computer science.
"Studying invasive species is important because it shows how they can wreak drastic havoc on our ecosystem," said Prieto, who plans on majoring in environmental sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.
Added Elmajdoub, who will pursue his civil engineering degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2015, "We spent countless hours in the lab and outside collecting buckthorn samples and the judges asked us some tough questions. All our hard work was worth it in the end, and it was nice to be recognized for our efforts."
Gary Mines, professor of chemistry; Paul Gulezian, assistant professor of biology; and Chad Landrie, associate professor of chemistry, served as advisors for Oakton's winning project.
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