Student award finalist isolates E. coli

Ninalynn Daquigan’s long hours in the lab are paying off.  The Professional Science Master’s student was a finalist for the California State University’s Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award.

Daquigan gave a presentation on her research at the 26th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium, Jan. 9-11 in Santa Clara. She was one of eight Eden Award finalists, and the only student from SF State to speak at the symposium.

Photo of Professional Science Masters student Ninalynn Daquigan

Ninalynn Daquigan works as a research intern in the food safety lab at the California Department of Public Health’s offices in Richmond, Calif.

As part of the independent study portion of the Professional Science Master’s Program, Daquigan commutes from her home in Milpitas to the California Department of Public Health’s offices in Richmond, where she works full time in the Food and Drug Laboratory testing a new method for detecting E. coli.

The method, temporarily named the 4AB plate for the four antibiotics it uses to inhibit harmless bacteria, is designed to isolate new strains of E. coli, which first emerged as a public health concern after a 2011 outbreak in Germany.

“In the lab I spike various foods with E. coli, like veggies or meat, then I test the plate’s ability to recover the E. coli cells,” said Daquigan. “Enrichment, detection and isolation are the key steps for any outbreak investigation. We want to lessen the time between detection and isolation.”

While working to confirm the accuracy of the 4AB plate, Daquigan prepared for her presentation at the symposium. 

Eden Award finalists are evaluated on their ability to communicate their research to an audience of both scientists and non-scientists. The top prize includes travel expenses to another academic conference of the student’s choosing.

“When you’re surrounded by professionals it can be extremely intimidating to speak up,” said Daquigan. “I’ve always been a fairly quiet student, and it hasn’t helped that I’m a young female scientist trying to be successful, but eventually I realized I wasn’t doing myself any favors keeping my ideas to myself.”

Daquigan will continue to work at the California Dept. of Public Health food safety lab through the spring and expects to complete her master’s degree in May.

“The Professional Science Master’s Program trains students to be at the forefront of biomedical research,” said Lily Chen, professor of biology and director of the program. “It’s rewarding to have one of our students recognized for her work and professionalism.”

-- Gianna Devoto