Make The Connection

March 5, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan student Mindi Klaus '25 is working to study bacteria on playgrounds in humid Ohio and dry Arizona to determine their resistance to antibiotics. She earned an OWU Connection grant to support her project. (Photos courtesy of Mindi Klaus '25)

Germ of an Idea

Ohio Wesleyan Student Explores Antibiotic Resistance at Playgrounds in Arizona, Ohio

Name: Mindi Klaus '25
Hometown: Marion, Ohio
High School: River Valley High School
Majors: Microbiology and Pre-Professional Zoology
Minors: English and Chemistry
OWU Connection Experience: Klaus traveled to Tempe, Arizona, for a week in January as part of an ongoing independent research project, "Presence of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Community Spaces in Temperate Climate (Ohio) and Dry Climate (Arizona)."

For her project, Klaus swabbed playground equipment in Ohio and Arizona to "assess whether or not playgrounds are a potential source for the transmission of antibiotic resistance, one of the biggest issues in the medical field." For the remainder of the academic year, Klaus will be running antibiotic resistance tests on all of the samples. She earned an OWU Connection Theory-to-Practice Grant (TPG) to support her travel.

Mindi Klaus '25 reviews bacteria cultured from a playground in Tempe, Arizona. She is spending the semester comparing samples taken in Arizona and Ohio to determine how climate affects the antibiotic resistance of bacteria.

What I'm Researching?

"I am researching antibiotic resistance in bacterial species found on playgrounds in both the humid climate of Ohio and the dry climate of Arizona. Antibiotic resistance is a widespread clinical issue that causes antibiotics prescribed for bacterial infections to not be effective in killing the bacteria. From this research, I hope to learn what types of organisms are found on playgrounds and whether there is a significant difference in the antibiotic resistance of these organisms in dry climates vs. humid ones."

My Favorite Moment

"My favorite moment of the trip was collecting the samples in Tempe. I set out at around 7 a.m. and spent the next two or three hours walking all over to scope out playgrounds and take samples. The weather was much better than Ohio in January, and it's always fun to take your science into public."

Lessons Learned

"Overall, I learned a lot from this experience. While the techniques I was using were ones I already had great practice with in my labs at OWU, this was the first project I completed on my own in a new place.

"I cold-emailed labs at ASU (Arizona State University) to find one that would host me and was lucky to have a scientist there agree. He let me use lab space to do all of my bacterial culturing and plating and helped me send the samples back to OWU. From this, I learned how to network myself and how to collaborate professionally, which will greatly aid me in my future in science.

"I also learned how to navigate snafus. At first, my plates were not growing very well, and I had to make the decision to leave them in the incubator for an extra day and then modify my culturing plans accordingly. I was only comfortable doing this because of the extensive training in micro I have received at Ohio Wesleyan. Overall, I feel this experience made me a better scientist."

Mindi Klaus '25 enjoys a panoramic view while visiting Tempe, Arizona, to conduct scientific research.

My OWU Mentor

"My mentor is Dr. Laura Tuhela-Reuning. She has helped me figure out the logistics of my project, including the supplies that I have needed and the procedures I have used to carry out this project." (Affectionately known as Dr. T-R to her students, Tuhela-Reuning is Klaus's thesis adviser. The faculty member also is an environmental microbiologist, a senior lecturer of Biological Sciences, and oversees OWU's scanning transmission electron microscope.)

My Campus Involvements

"Outside of the classroom, I am a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a Bishop Way student ambassador, co-chair of the Biology board, and a member of Mortar Board.

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan?

"I chose Ohio Wesleyan because I was drawn to a small university where I would receive an individualized education and be able to better connect with my professors and classmates. I also loved the idea of the OWU Connection and vowed to utilize it before graduation. I am so thankful I was able to receive this TPG and travel to Arizona."

I am currently in the process of deciding on a Ph.D. program in Microbiology. ... I have received endless support from OWU through the graduate application process.

Mindi Klaus '25

My Plans After Graduation

"I am currently in the process of deciding on a Ph.D. program in Microbiology. I have just finished interviews and will be making my decision in the next couple of months. I have received endless support from OWU through the graduate application process, especially from my adviser and mentor, Dr. T-R. I am so thankful for her and would not be where I am today without all her help during my time at OWU."