Kiara Lewis

MIT Department: Chemical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Prof. Hadley Sikes
Undergraduate Institution: Spelman College
Website: LinkedIn
Research Poster
Lightning Talk


My name is Kiara Lewis and I am originally from New Orleans, LA. I am in my last semester at Spelman College majoring in Chemistry/Chemical Engineering before I switch to an engineering school of my choice. I have research experience in 2D IR spectroscopy, which helped me to develop the interest in research that I currently have. Outside of academics, I enjoy reading, watching movies, spending time with friends and family, and going to the gym.

2021 Abstract

Utilizing OmpW to Determine the Presence of the Foodborne
Pathogen Salmonella

Kiara Lewis1, Yining Hao2, Hadley D. Sikes2
1Department of Chemistry, Spelman College
2Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Salmonella is a bacterium that can be found in foods such as meats, eggs, and vegetables. Consuming a food contaminated with this bacterium can result in serious illness and possibly death. It is especially hazardous to pregnant women who can pass it to their child. Before, testing for Salmonella took days, time that some consumers may not have. The purpose of this project was to utilize the outer membrane protein W, or OmpW, found in Salmonella to create a test that can then identify the bacterium within minutes. The project utilized the Rapid Affinity Pair Identification via Directed Selection (RAPIDS) process. This included buying  a plasmid containing the protein so that it could be extracted, purified, and used to find binders. This allowed the identification of a protein that would bind to the OmpW, thus when put in the test, would inform the presence of the pathogen. A test like this is groundbreaking. It will not only save companies that use it money, as they will not have to recall millions of dollars’ worth of food products and prevent any lawsuits that could come about. It can also save the lives of the many consumers who would be put at risk if a Salmonella outbreak occurred.