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High School Student Scientist Wins Multiple Honors for Research Including Rapid Methods

This year, Fallbrook High senior Jillian Drake will compete for the fourth time at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair (GSDEF) which is in its 59th year. Drake has been the only Fallbrook High Student to ever compete at the county or state level science fairs, where she has placed first in her divisions of microbiology, environmental science and plant science for the last three years, and had been selected to compete at the California State Science Fair where she has also placed.

Drake has completed three projects researching the plant bacteria ‘candidatus liberibacater’ responsible for highly destructive diseases in huanlongbing or greening in citrus, psyllid yellows in tomatoes and zebra chip potatoes which have caused billions of dollars in lost crops worldwide. Drake conducted her research at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Citrus laboratory in Riverside, under the plant pathologists Dr. Richard Lee, Dr. Manjunath Keremane and Dr. Chandrika Ramadugu.

Her first project, completed as a freshman, was "A new rapid processing method for the detection of ‘candidatus liberibacter’ bacteria in psyllid vectors" which developed and validated a new method of DNA extraction which was more significantly more efficient and less costly to perform than the current method used at the time to detect this bacterium in the field.

She has recently completed a two year project also at the USDA-ARS, "Chromosomally integrated bacteriophage in ‘candidatus liberbacter’ bacteria and its effect upon disease expression" which investigates the role of bacteriophage in disease expression for these same bacteria. Additionally, Drake completed a project at the USDA-ARS Soil and Salinity Laboratory, also in Riverside studying the effects of solarization on soil fungus and invasive weed mortality, and creating a mathematical model which predicts the effectiveness of solarization at various temperatures and heat duration intervals.

As an active member of the Fallbrook Chapter of FFA, Drake has also competed with her agriscience projects within the FFA, where she has won overall best science project in the state multiple times and has competed nationally multiple times, placing gold and silver. Also within FFA, she has won state proficiency for agriscience plant research and was a national finalist, and has also been selected to compete for the 2013 California State FFA Star Agriscience Student. Additional awards for Drake’s work include being selected as a finalist in the Junior Humanities Science Symposium Southern Region, semi-finalist (2011) and finalist (Top 5 2012) for the National Christopher Columbus Agriscience Student competitions as well as being selected to present her work to regional organizations such as the American Society of Microbiologists.

Over the last four years, Drake has worked over 2000 hours in her research efforts and has earned several thousand dollars in awards. When not in the research lab, she is active at Fallbrook High where she has been in the FFA since her freshman year. Within the FFA, she is a chapter officer and has competed on many teams including the parliamentary procedures, extemporaneous speaking and judging teams.

Additionally, Drake has been a member of the Fallbrook High tennis and track teams, a student leader in the ASB, holding multiple offices over many years, an editor for the Fallbrook High newspaper, on the yearbook staff, as well as being selected to be on the frosh, JV and senior academic teams and the academic decathlon teams. Drake is planning on pursuing a professional career in science focusing on microbiology and immunology.

Source: Fallbrook Bonsall Village News

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