Tiny ticks earn Stillwater Area High School junior big recognition

January 19, 2018
student in lab coat testing samples

Stillwater Area High School junior Max Stauffer has been recognized nationally for his research on tick-borne pathogens. Stauffer presented the findings during a poster session at the annual meeting for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Stauffer spent the summer between his sophomore and junior year working with a team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic to collect deer ticks in rural Wisconsin and identify the pathogens they carry.

“We got to drag for ticks by pulling a sheet of cloth and hoping ticks grab ahold,” said Stauffer. “About 3 hours went by in a blur, I would go as far as to say the mindless activity was fun.”

The researchers brought the tick samples back to the Mayo Clinic where they extracted the DNA, testing for diseases including Lyme, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, and the Powassan virus.  

Stauffer submitted an abstract of the research to the ASTMH and was accepted. He was one of the youngest participants - most posters came from graduate students and professionals. More than 4,500 people from all over the world attended the conference. The meeting is designed for researchers, professors, government and public health officials, military personnel, and health care providers working in the fields of tropical medicine, hygiene and global health.

Stauffer says he hasn’t decided on a future career yet, but he plans to go to college. He is fascinated by all the science courses he’s taken at the high school, including Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. He also enjoys math and will likely focus his post-high school studies on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).