North Carolina has a young BioGENEius in its midst.

Carver Nichols, a senior honor student at Brevard High School, is a finalist in the BioGENEius Challenge, an international science fair. As North Carolina’s lone 2016 finalist, Nichols will compete against 14 others from the United States, Canada and Germany for top honors and a $7,500 prize at the 2016 BIO International Convention, the international industry conference, in San Francisco, June 5-8.

Nichols will vie in the “agricultural sustainability” category with his project “Predicting Graft Compatibility of Kudzu, Soybeans and Garden Peas through Peroxidase Analysis.”

“I chose this project because I love plant science,” Nichols says. “I also had experience with grafting plants.”

Nichols will present his project to a panel of judges via poster board and then answer their questions.

“I look forward to meeting new people from around the world and seeing what great minds have accomplished with their projects,” he says.

Nichols’ project was two years in the making.

“I am the kind of person that wants to pounce on every opportunity that I can,” he says. “When I first heard of the BioGENEius Challenge my sophomore year, I had my sights set on the award.”

His formula for getting this far in the competition: “I like to think that I was passionate about what I did, and I treated the whole ordeal as a learning experience and a chance to tell folks what I learned,” he says.

The BioGENEius Challenge, conducted by the Arlington, Va.-based Biotechnology Institute, is the latest of many science fair competitions and related activities Nichols has pursued under the mentorship of Dr. Kent Wilcox in the TIME 4 Real Science program. The program, a partnership of Transylvania County Schools and 4H Youth Development, is an intensive, inquiry-based school-day course in which county high school students conduct original scientific research on topics of their own choosing.

Nichols has also been guided by his mother, a high school science teacher, who will accompany him to San Francisco for the BioGENEius Challenge.

“I have grown up with science ingrained into my childhood,” Nichols says.

Starting in the fall, Nichols plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at the University of Georgia.

“I have found that I love plants and the horticultural industry,” he says. “I am ultimately looking for a stable and enjoyable career that I can support a family with.”

That likely means a job in public horticulture, horticultural sales or production horticulture, he says.

“I do not necessarily plan to pursue science research as a career because I would go crazy spending a whole career in a laboratory,” he says. “I have to be outside digging ditches, sweating and getting dirty.”

Abstract of Carver Nichols’ Presentation, “Predicting Graft Compatibility of Kudzu, Soybeans and Garden Peas through Peroxidase Analysis:”

An important step forward in progressive agriculture has incorporated the use of grafted vegetables to maximize production efficiency and pest management. Generally, any herbaceous or soft tissued plant will graft together if these two plants were in the same botanical family. The purpose of this experiment was to investigate whether or not physically similar peroxidase profiles had any correlation with graft compatibility in Fabaceous plants, Pueraria montana, Glycine max, and Pisum sativum. In previous studies, total protein assays were conducted along with histochemical peroxidase assays using guaiacol as an oxidant were performed to then run native gel electrophoresis on tissue extract which were then stained with guaiacol to examine peroxidase profiles. In this study, modified versions of the given methods were used to determine a correlation. Although more testing must be conducted, the preliminary results of both grafting and examination of peroxidase profiles suggest that (Scion) Pisum sativum X (Rootstock) Pueraria montana are incompatible. Preliminary results with (Scion) Glycine max X (Rootstock) Pueraria montana may possibly be compatible. Profiles showed similar physical characteristics and grafts unified, but later died due to mechanical damage.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center