the lab coat, the protective goggles, the test tubes, the studious
expressions, Daniel Murin could pass for any other chemistry student
at The University of Southern Mississippi. But when most people
encounter Murin toiling away in the laboratories in Johnson Science
Tower, where he's spent countless hours researching bacterial resistance
to antibiotics, they're shocked to learn he's not a college student
at all. He's a high school senior.
Heinhorst is used to such surprise. Since Murin first sought her
expertise on a science fair project Murin was working on in the
eighth grade, the Southern Miss chemistry professor has served as
his mentor. Now, the 17-year old senior is earning class credit
for his work at Southern Miss as part Oak Grove's Distinguished
Scholars Program, which teaches students how to structure scientific
and academic research.
to school with Dr. Heinhorst's daughter, and she had always done
really successful science fair projects," Murin said. "I
asked her daughter if she could introduce us, and we've been working
together every year since."
to Dr. Heinhorst's knowledge and her equipment has allowed Murin
to conduct research way beyond the scope of most high school science
"A lot of things I've done while working here are comparable
to senior-level undergraduate and even graduate-level work. I'm
grateful everyday to come to Southern Miss and to be in a town like
Hattiesburg where the social life revolves around the university."
Murin - who
is most interested in the life sciences, especially molecular biology
and microbiology - has been conducting research since May on antibiotic
resistance in chickens from commercial and free-range sources. The
findings could have significant ramifications for human consumers,
Murin said. "The feeds that commercial growers are using are
spreading resistance to chickens, and people are affected by bacteria
that antibiotics won't fix."
said Murin's yearlong research project as part of the Distinguished
Scholars Program is not all chemistry, but a mixture of different
disciplines. As part of the course's requirements, Murin must design
and execute "mini-projects" in areas like math, psychology
and library research. Monitored by Oak Grove teachers, who chart
his progress, Murin was also required to complete a prerequisite
course in literary resources at the Southern Miss Library. There,
Murin had to locate and document about 50 topics, all on his own.
comes in every day. He leaves Oak Grove at noon and comes to Southern
Miss, where he stays until he's finished his goals. Over the years
I've spent many hours with him, and he requires very little supervision,"
Dr. Heinhorst said.
She said Murin
has already put in "way more than enough" hours to satisfy
the course requirements, but he stays longer than expected because
"he loves his research."
get a chance to share his "love" with college faculty
and postdoctoral students at the annual meeting of the Mississippi
Academy of Sciences in February on the Gulf Coast. There, he'll
be the only high school student presenting research, giving a 15-minute
presentation on his findings.
Murin's hard work and precocious hunger for research has drawn the
attention of college recruiters, as well as high praise from scientists
across the country.
a seminar speaker from the University of South Florida recently,
and she was so surprised when she learned Daniel was still in high
school," Dr. Heinhorst said. "She said, 'He's really one
in a million.'"