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Source: Mychal Davis,;
and Sanjeev Narayanan, 785-532-4430,
Pronouncer: Mychal is Michael;
and Sanjeev Narayanan is Sahn-jeev Nuh-ryan-un
Photo available. Contact or 785-532-6415.
Video available. Access at
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009



MANHATTAN -- DNA regions that make bacterial pathogens like salmonella and E. coli dangerous could be escaping laboratories and contaminating the environment. One Kansas State University undergraduate is researching this hazard -- and his investigation begins by collecting soil, water and cattle manure.

Mychal Davis pipetting in the labMychal Davis, junior in animal sciences and industry from Omaha, Neb., has been collecting samples of soil, water and cattle manure from and around Manhattan during the last year. He is looking for the presence of potentially harmful, genetically engineered DNA that frequently is used in molecular biology laboratories.

Davis is working with Sanjeev Narayanan, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at K-State, through the university's Developing Scholars Program, which pairs underrepresented students with faculty mentors for research projects.

"Mychal is an exceptionally dedicated undergraduate student with a great work ethic," Narayanan said. "He is a great asset to our lab, and he is much appreciated for his research abilities and for his sense of humor."

Narayanan said Davis additionally is exploring the role of the annual crow migration on amplification and dissemination of foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella -- two bacterial pathogens that cause diseases in animals and foodborne illnesses in humans. Davis is examining crow feces for salmonella and E. coli and for genetically engineered DNA. These DNA fragments can be transferred from bacteria to bacteria, which can help bacteria gain the ability to cause more severe disease or become resistant to antibiotic treatment.

Davis sets traps for fecal matter in areas of Manhattan that are largely populated by crows. He said collecting the samples does not bother him.

"If you're going to be a veterinarian, you have to get used to it," he said. "But there are worse things like pig fecal matter -- that's something I can't stand."

Results from Davis' preliminary studies show that the crow feces carry a large amount of E. coli and salmonella, Narayanan said. The researchers are in the process of characterizing isolated bacteria to see if they belong to serotypes associated with severe animal or human infections. Davis also is evaluating decontamination procedures to find the best method to prevent release of DNA from the laboratory into the environment.

Davis will present his findings at the Developing Scholars' poster presentations in April.

He said being involved with research has been a good learning experience, and he thinks it will help him with his long-term goals, including being accepted into the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It has been mind-blowing because I feel like this is a sophisticated lab and I had no experience in research at all coming out of high school," Davis said. "I'm learning all of these new techniques, learning new words and expanding my vocabulary every single day."

As a freshman, Davis said conducting research was intimidating, but now he finds the lab environment more relaxing.

"It's a really diverse group of people," he said. "I learn about different cultures -- even just by listening to people's different music. It's a good experience. And when I bring my music, they're totally shocked. I listen to a lot of hip hop."

Davis would like to specialize in exotic animals, and his dream job is to be a zoo veterinarian at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago because Chicago is where he was born and where some of his family lives.

Davis is the ag council representative for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences. He also is a community assistant at Haymaker Hall, a member of the Multicultural Honor Student Society and the Big 12 delegate for K-State's Black Student Union.

A 2007 graduate of Omaha Central High School, he is the son of Michael Davis, Chicago, and Theola Cooper, Omaha.