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High school students partner with scientists to find the next new antibiotic

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- One lab wants to put Huntsville on the map for medical research. CFD Research is working to discover new antibiotics to combat biological warfare agents and so-called "superbugs" that have become resistant to most modern medicine. They have enlisted the help of New Century High School students.

"I was really excited when I got the opportunity to and even more excited when I found out I got accepted," New Century Technology High School student Khory Calenburg said.

They are working to find the next new antibiotic, an important scientific mission.

"Antimicrobial resistance is, in fact, one of the biggest public health concerns. It is said that the death toll due to antimicrobial resistance will surpass the death toll of cancer by 2050," CFD scientific researcher Kyle Lewter said.

Lewter says students will help create and screen drug discovery libraries. They will use water samples to find microbes. Eventually, the microbes will be used to find potential new antibiotics.

"You see a little spot on the petrie dish that shows where there is inhibition, in other words, the bacteria is not growing. And so what you find is that clone is producing some type of antimicrobial preventing that bacterial growth and that is your potential antibiotic," he said.

"The fact that we could potentially actually contribute to the future of medicine or information is incredible," New Century Technology High School student Zoe Maddox said.

This internship provides students with two opportunities: they get to be a part of important scientific research, and it also lays the groundwork for their future. They can see what it's actually like to be a scientist.

"I didn't even know what this was three weeks ago, so now I'm more familiar with the instruments we are using," New Century Technology High School student Dennis Hampton said.

What they learn here can help students make career decisions.

"I'm not sure if I want to go into like medical care working as a pediatrician or if I want to do more research," New Century Technology High School student Regina Harris said.

Scientists say hands-on internships are important, because they help create the next generations of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.