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High school students speak at the It's About People conference

Alma Mater, in cooperation with II. gimnazija Maribor (gymnasium), held an exciting round table where students presented their high school research. The It's About People conference allowed them to learn how to present research work and communicate research results with the general public early in their future academic development.

"These are individuals who are expected to continue their education and careers in an academic context and thereby contribute to social and technological development for a safe society that respects people's dignity," commented Dr Luka Martin Tomažič, and added that the students presented high-quality and in-depth research works with exciting topics. 

Tim Šinko studied microorganisms on toothbrushes: "The oral cavity is a habitat for more than 700 different bacteria, and oral health is crucial for maintaining systemic health throughout the body, as the mouth is the beginning of the digestive tract and the connection between the external and internal environment. Toothbrushes help maintain a healthy oral microbiota by removing bacterial biofilms from the teeth twice a day," said Tim, adding that the study explored the various types of bacteria found on people's toothbrushes. "I found this out by growing toothbrush suspensions on culture media. We also tested the effectiveness of stopping the growth of individual isolated bacterial species with mouthwashes and some natural, alcohol-free mouthwashes." 

Matic Mohorko focused his research on the evergreen plant Hyssopus officinalis, also known as hyssop, which has been used in traditional herbal medicine since ancient times. "After reviewing the literature and choosing appropriate methods, I obtained a natural hyssop extract using ethanol as a solvent by ultrasonic extraction. This was followed by measuring the content of biologically active ingredients and, in the last stage, formulation into a nasal inhaler and a universal cream, which can be used as supportive therapy for respiratory problems during or after COVID-19," explained  Matic. He added that hyssop contains several active ingredients that are soothing and anti-inflammatory, help with respiratory diseases, and suppress coughs. 

Špela Polutnik researched sarcopenia – the age-related decline in muscle tissue. She concluded that, in addition to age, the development of sarcopenia is influenced by various chronic diseases, physical inactivity, diet, and lack of vitamin D. "Diagnostic criteria are reduced muscle strength and reduced quality or amount of muscle. The severity of the syndrome is assessed by the result of one of the muscle performance tests. In the research, I noticed differences in these parameters between the active and inactive elderly population," said  Špela, adding that from the results obtained in this study, it should not be concluded that physical activity prevents the onset of sarcopenia in old age. However, most of the results point in this direction. "That's why we recommend the elderly to play sports, as physical activity could be a good prevention against the development of sarcopenia, but more research will be needed on this topic in the future," she concludes. 

The connection between known stress, depression, anxiety, and the concentration of cortisol in the hair of young people was the central topic of the study by student Filip Dugonik. "Chronic stress hurts mental health and can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression, with the hormone cortisol being secreted in response to stress and therefore serving as a stress biomarker. Due to the consistent monthly growth, hair allows for a longer-term view of cortisol secretion," he said and presented the results. "The study found no significant association between hair cortisol and perceived stress. Participants with high levels of perceived stress scored higher on average on depression and anxiety than those with moderate or low levels. A small negative correlation was detected between stress and body mass index. Those with a negative attitude towards stress had a higher level of perceived stress. It was also established that women perceive more stress than men," he explained. 

The students agreed that participating in the international scientific It's About People conference represented a new experience in public speaking and was the first step on the academic path.  Additionally, they felt itconfirmed that they were heading along the right lines.