Chandler teen’s burn treatment experiment lauded - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler teen’s burn treatment experiment lauded

June 24th, 2021 development
Chandler teen’s burn treatment experiment lauded


At age 17, Michelle Sheikh of Chandler is already on her way toward helping to solve global health problems.

And it’s no surprise the recent graduate of Arizona College Prep-Erie will be majoring in biomedical sciences with a global health minor when she begins her studies at Arizona State University’s Barrett, The Honors College this fall.

The daughter of Zara and Salman Sheikh, Michelle won one of the Society for Science’s Special Awards in the Regeneron ISEF 2021, a national science competition for high school students.

She is the first student in Arizona to win first place in both the U.S. Agency of International Development’s global health and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory competitions.

Each year, organizations representing government, industry and education across a wide variety of scientific disciplines affiliate with Regeneron ISEF as special award sponsors, providing awards, scholarships internships and other prizes to hundreds of student finalists.

Michelle’s award from the Acoustical Society of America was for a project titled “A Novel Approach to Treating Burn Wound Infections Using Flavonoids: Exploring the Interaction between Antibiotics and Flavonoids.”

“My project aims to provide a sustainable and effective antibiotic alternative and resistance-modifying agent through the use of flavonoids,” she explained.

Flavonoids are chemical compounds in plants “that possess antibiotic activity,” Michelle said, and because they are common in most fruits and vegetables, they are more readily available and cheaper than commercial antibiotics.

Also, she added, “Flavonoids can enhance the antibiotic activity of commonly used antibiotics.”

She began work on the project in early 2020.

“I was inspired to work on my research project after reading the story of a 2-year-old Syrian refugee girl Aliyah who passed away from a preventable burn wound infection simply because there was an antibiotic shortage in her war stricken home country,” Michelle said.

“I was quite dismayed by how weak worldwide drug supply chains are at providing adequate access to antibiotics in developing countries,” she continued.

“Basic pharmaceutical drugs such as amoxicillin, which are easily available in the United States, are lacking in the millions in underdeveloped and developing countries.”

Hence, she found herself “motivated to develop a sustainable and affordable antibiotic alternative and resistance-modifying agent.”

Michell’s award-winning project comprised two experiments – a “Kirby Bauer Disc Diffusion test” and an “antimicrobial susceptibility test.”

The first involved creating three solutions, one solely made of flavonoids, a second with flavonoids and amoxicillin and a third of amoxicillin as a control.

“After creating these solutions a paper disc is soaked in each solution which is then transferred onto a petri dish streaked with E.coli. After 24 hours a clear area will appear around each paper disc where bacteria has been inhibited, the larger the clear area, the more bacteria have been inhibited – which is the ideal result.”

The experiment showed that the mix of flavonoids and amoxicillin was the most effective.

The goal of the second test was to see how flavonoids and amoxicillin can work together to kill bacteria.

“Essentially what this test found is that when even a small concentration of flavonoids was introduced to amoxicillin… cell density, or the amount of bacteria, is significantly reduced,” Michelle said.

Michelle conducted her experiments at the ASU Biodesign Institute under graduate student Rebecca Jernigan.

Michelle isn’t done.

“I plan on continuing this research in college by trying to design an efficient drug delivery system utilizing flavonoids and commercial antibiotics,” she said.

Science has long been an interest to the precocious teen.

“I believe that science has a major positive impact on society and this impact is growing as we have all seen how the several vaccines generated by science have helped curb the COVID-19 pandemic,” Michelle said.

She is captivated by “the versatile opportunities it offers to make constructive contributions that can help bridge health disparities which are rampantly prevalent even in our developed society.”

“I was motivated to create a feasible method to help reduce inequalities within antibiotic availability by creating a sustainable and cost-effective solution,” she said.

Michelle also has won other accolades for her project.

She took first place in biochemistry at the 2021 Chandler Innovation Fair for the second consecutive year and was among the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair’s top exhibits.

An AP Scholar who graduated with a 4.5 GPA, Michelle also was among the top six finalists in the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium competition.