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From a Personal Interest to a Research Project

James Lawton, MCTC studentJames K. Lawton II enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) in 2008 intending to get his associate in science (A.S.) degree in Chemistry. During his time at the College, he came away with much more than that.

James joined the MCTC Science Club and began performing research on one of his interests: kombucha tea. He conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Renu Kumar, MCTC Microbiology instructor. His research focused on how kombucha ferments and affects gut microflora, as well as on its antimicrobial effects against bacteria and yeast. During this time he became President of the Science Club, and his work was accepted for presentation at the national meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in Denver, Colo.

At the national conference, James’ research shared the spotlight with 3,000 other presenters from around the world who included graduate students, post-docs and industry researchers. “This was the first time I had ever been a part of an event of this magnitude,” said James. “To be honest, I felt like an ant surrounded by giants. It was intimidating, but the daily talks were incredible, and having the chance to interact directly with prospective employers and future companies was really helpful.”

After the conference, James realized microbiology is where he belongs. “I walked away inspired,” said James. “The experience changed my entire outlook.” Three years after entering MCTC with the goal of earning an A.S. in Chemistry, James graduated with degrees in Chemistry, Biology and Biotechnology. He currently attends the University of Minnesota where he’s expanding his research through collaborative efforts that involve directed research through both the College of Biological Sciences and MCTC. He is set to graduate in one year with an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He plans to pursue a graduate program in Microbiology.

“None of this would have been possible without the financial support of MCTC’s Science Club and my project mentor and advisor Dr. Renu Kumar,” said James. “I can’t thank Renu enough. She provided me with a framework to excel. I wouldn’t be here today without her.”

Published July 2013

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