Biology student wins award for desert plant research

College of Science, Engineering and Technology faculty and students attended the recent meeting for the Arizona and Southern Nevada Branch of the American Society for Microbiology.

Foxx Walz, a Grand Canyon University biology senior, won the best undergraduate poster presentation award at the 62nd meeting of the Arizona and Southern Nevada Branch of the American Society for Microbiology recently in Tucson. He was one of several GCU College of Science, Engineering and Technology faculty and students who presented and interacted with microbiologists from other universities at the event.

Foxx Waltz presents his research.

Walz’s presentation was titled “Desert Plants in Combination with Antibiotics and Thin-Layer Chromatography in Bioassay,” which featured research with GCU biology professor Dr. Daisy Savarirajan.

They evaluated the antimicrobial properties of three native desert plants: creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), pomegranate peel (Punica granatum) and olive (Olea europaea) against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Results showed creosote outperformed the antibiotic ampicillin.

According to the researchers, this serves as promising potential, given the challenges involving the treatment of drug-resistant bacterial infections. Clearly phytotherapy provides a safer alternative to combating microbial resistance because of the excessive use of conventional antibiotics.

Walz, who has made the Dean’s List every semester, was spurred by his interest in plants to GCU’s Antimicrobial Discovery Lab. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in forestry or conservation and hopes to work in ecological field research or conservation biology. He wants to conduct plant life projects under the National Park Services or U.S. military to further study human impact on the planet and find new ways to live sustainably.

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