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Catherine Vrentas


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    Frostburg State University

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My scientific research interests vary--I like studying different types of things! I have studied microbes that cause disease, as well as microbes that live in the soil around plants. Last semester, my students took sediments from a swamp and explored the microbes that lived in the different layers. This year, I have been working with students at my University to research, design, and plant a garden with plants that have traditionally been used as medicines in the Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    My favorite plant is the Southern Magnolia tree. I love the shininess of the leaves, the shape of the flowers, and most importantly, the lemony scent of the blooms. When I was in high school, I had to prepare a project in English class about a flower, and I chose the magnolia. I discovered a famous painter who captured its beauty (Martin Johnson Heade) and have enjoyed these images ever since.

  • Profile Question 2
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    When I was younger, I loved to explore outside. I had a small book with ideas for experiments. I still remember trying one out where I put water and soil in a 2 L soda bottle, shook it up, and let the different layers settle. I could see all the different types of things inside. When I was in high school, my advanced biology teacher always went above and beyond to find cool new things to show us. She even brought in a flower that smelled like rotting meat to attract flies that would pollinate it. She is the reason I selected Biology in particular for my career.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    The best thing about being a scientist is to discover new things that no one in the whole world ever knew before. You are an explorer!

  • Help represent the outreach efforts of your societies. Please click all those organizations you are a member of:
    (not set)

  • Availability
    I am currently available for mentoring, please send me team match invitations

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts


Hi team!  I noticed that you've updated your experimental plan.  I like how you've thought about controlling different variables, such as the amount of soil in each cup.

A couple of things to think about: 

--I noticed that you will be watering once per day.  You might end up having pretty soggy soil, depending on how fast the soil dries out.  I'd recommend monitoring the soil moisture (for example, if the soil is very wet, you will not want to keep adding water), and you may need to make an adjustment mid-experiment in terms of how much to water.  To stay consistent across groups ("controlling variables"), any changes you make to the watering schedule, you'll want to make for all of the groups.  Sometimes, if there is too much water, the seeds will be affected by a fungus and will start to rot. 

--Do you have a plan for the types of data you will be recording?  You might want to look on the package with your corn seeds as well to see how many days it is expected to take for corn seeds to germinate. 


--Something to consider is that the type of water could potentially affect two different types of processes.  One is the process of germination, and how long it takes for the seed to germinate.  The second is the speed at which the plant grows after it germinates.  Also, you might consider recording variables like the color of leaves.  Not all scientific data needs to be quantitative data like height, mass, circumference, etc.  Sometimes scientists will collect data about other aspects of the appearance of a plant.  In these cases, I might make a scale for myself to make it easier to record.  For example, maybe a "1" will indicate a white leaf, "2" a pale green leaf, "3" a medium green leaf, and "4" a dark green leaf. These are just some examples to get you started!


I am looking forward to hearing about the results of your experiment--




Hi team! I am glad I could help!


I tried the link provided but I wasn't able to get it to work for me--I will try again tomorrow on my main computer. I am wondering if you might be able to upload the file to this site so I could download it directly from this page? I am looking forward to seeing your presentation, and I hope you had fun designing and completing your Planting Science experiment!



W.N.M.C. Catherine Vrentas

Hi team,

As you work on preparing your conclusions, you might also want to think about some of the differences between seed types, and their requirements for germination.

For example, nasturtiums have  a hard seed coat, so some seed companies recommend scratching the surface before sowing the seeds:

There are even some seeds that need to be exposed to the heat of a fire before they germinate! You may find it interesting to explore more about the differences between seeds.  Why do you think it might be beneficial for a plant to not germinate readily--in other words, could there be any advantages to being "difficult" to germinate?



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