Due to the risks and safety rules associated with culturing microorganisms, the NCSEF SRC restricts most microbiology projects to the Junior and Senior levels, with a few exceptions (described below). Please note: these exceptions do not and are not intended to supersede the ISEF rules, as outlined in the ISEF International Rules and Guidelines. All experiments at all grade levels should still conform to ISEF regulations.
- Experiments using baker's/brewer's yeast (bread/beer yeast) can be performed at home (cultures can be grown at home) by all grade levels.
- Experiments using yogurt/cheese/buttermilk/kefir culture starters or probiotic cultures from commercially available probiotic supplements can be performed at home (cultures can be grown at home) by all grade levels. However, if you are culturing specific strains of these types of microorganisms (i.e., if you buy pure culture slants from Carolina Biological), these cultures cannot be grown at home; the experiment must be conducted at school or an alternative facility with dedicated lab space.
- Experiments using Eschericha coli ( coli) K-12 strain bacteria can be performed by all grade levels (you must be able to provide documentation verifying that your organism is the K-12 strain if requested to do so). However, this organism cannot be grown at home; the experiment must be conducted at school or an alternative facility with dedicated lab space.
- Experiments involving composting or decomposition of foods can be performed at home by all grade levels as long as no samples are cultured and as long as all projects in these categories are terminated at the first visible signs of microbial growth. If microbial growth is allowed to occur at the Elementary level, the experiment will not qualify for competition; if microbial growth is allowed to occur at the Junior and Senior levels, the experiment must be conducted at school or an alternative facility with dedicated lab space to qualify for competition.
- All other types of experiments involving the culturing or other manipulation of microorganisms are not permitted at the Elementary level.
- All other types of experiments involving the culturing of microorganisms (permitted at the Junior and Senior levels) cannot be performed at home; the experiments must be conducted at school or an alternative facility with dedicated lab space.
- Culturing of unknown microorganisms (such as those swabbed from skin surfaces, mouths, animals, flora/fauna, and inanimate objects such as doorknobs and remote controls) must be performed at a school or alternative facility with dedicated lab space.
Experiments involving the culturing of any unknown microorganisms are not allowed at the Elementary level.
- Microorganisms include, but are not limited to: bacteria, fungi (including molds), yeasts, viruses, viroids, prions, rickettsia, and parasites.
- ALL projects involving microorganisms must follow the ISEF Rules regarding culturing, handling, and disposal. These procedures must be detailed in the student’s Research Plan and on their Form 3 and/or Form 6A.
- Experiments involving protists are generally allowed at all grade levels as long as the organism does not cause human or animal disease or is not an environmental hazard. Experiments involving Plasmodium are NOT allowed unless they are conducted at a Regulated Research Institution with proper prior approvals in place (Junior and Senior levels only).