Summary of OUTPACE 2015 by Iba Iyegha

After 7 exciting weeks of studying plant pathology,OUTPACE has finally come to an end with a feeling of accomplishment from successfully completing the program yet a sense of bleakness from the time having passed so quickly. To recap our journey through OUTPACE, we started our first week with a variety of activities including a brief introduction to the program followed by a lecture over-viewing plant pathology, a review of microbiological lab techniques, and our first trip to the UAB Community Garden to meet growers and become familiar with the different plants being grown. Our second week involved the preparation of the growth media we’d need in the following weeks, multiple lectures on bacteria, and a voyage throughout the garden testing sick plants for viral invaders. Week 3 was lecture-free due to much time spent in the lab infecting Arabidopsis thaliana with Pseudomonas syringae, plating the bacteria isolated from the infected plants,  and processing the results of our infections. However, we enjoyed a break from all the busy lab work to play VeggieVaders, an educational board game that demonstrated the zig-zag model of plant-pathogen interactions and showed us how either the plant or pathogen could win in a constant evolutionary race. Week 4 centered around fungi as common plant pathogens with multiple intriguing lectures and a hands-on infection with Alternaria brassicicola. As a bonus, we were able to infect Arabidopsis with the necrotrophic bacterium, Erwinia carotovora. Week 5 involved a trip to the garden in search of sick plants followed by the plating of the pathogens suspected to be infecting the plants’ leaves. We were also able to follow up on our previous fungal infections and learn about phytopathogenic nematodes and plant-arthropod interactions (both friends and foes). By week 6, we knew our time in OUTPACE was coming to an end, yet we still carried on in high spirits with a viral infection of tobacco with tobacco mosaic virus and a complementary lecture on viruses. We were able to observe our cultures from the leaves obtained in the gardens (my favorite part of the program since my plates turned out like a zoo of bacteria) and subculture them to achieve pure samples. We concluded the week with an enlightening lecture on sustainability by Dr. Julie Price. Our seventh and final week of OUTPACE involved a chance to see the results of our viral infections and a lecture on sustainable disease management. It concluded with a mini-celebration of our completion of the program accompanied by cookies and fruit and lots of time to chat with our fellow OUTPACE participants and some members of the plant research community. All-in-all, it was a great 7 weeks full of fun, learning, community involvement, and a great opportunity for future OUTPACE participants.

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