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UH Maui students and faculty have work on microbiota published in peer reviewed journal

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Back row (L to R) Luz Maria Deardorff, Dr. Sally V. Irwin, Dr. Peter Fisher, Michelle Gould. Front row (L to R): Rachael Kent, Junnie June, Francesca Yadao. PC: Courtesy

Students and faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College had their work published earlier this week in the peer reviewed journal PLoS ONE. 

“Less than 1% of undergraduates have published in a peer reviewed journal so this is quite an accomplishment,” said Dr. Sally Irwin PhD, a UHMC faculty member that contributed to the work.  She spoke to the significance of the team’s findings, which she said is important to the field of health and the human microbiome as related to some common food preservatives.

The paper, titled “Sulfite preservatives effects on the mouth microbiome: Changes in viability, diversity and composition of microbiota,” is available for viewing online at:


This work started in January of 2018 and broke new ground in researching  the influence of sulfite preservatives found in food, on the mouth microbiome, according to the team. 

The research required about 18 months of developing techniques and optimizing protocols followed by extensive experimentation and data analysis. 

“COVID of course delayed our work but did not stop it,” said Dr. Irwin.  “All of the students on the paper have now moved on to either UH Mānoa or careers in their chosen fields but stayed with the project to help see it through to the end.”


Racheal Kent, Frankie Yadao and Luz Maria Deardorff were all research students, who contributed to the success of the research and publication. In addition, Dr. Peter Fisher, Michelle Gould and Junnie June (all current faculty or lecturers) were mentors and deeply involved in the process. 

Student Luz Deardorff, presenting research at a symposium at the John Burns Medical School last week. PC: courtesy Sally Irwin PhD

Earlier this week, Luz Maria Deardorff accompanied four current INBRE research students (Nadia Takayama, Cole Whitney, Noah Zolotow and Kyle Oshiro) to the John Burns medical school to present the research from the publication. The current research students were also on hand to present their work from the last year at the same symposium. 

This coming weekend, Deardorff will present this research again at the Hawaiʻi/California joint American Microbiology Society meeting and Whitney will present the work done by himself and his peers on the effects of preservatives on lysozyme activity. 


“We are very proud of all the research students and the work they have done here,” said Irwin.

Funding for this research was from the National Institutes of Health through the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence program  which promotes biomedical research opportunities for undergraduates.  

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