Forrest Scene

Student research on bacteria growth on public keyboards to be presented at annual forum

Washburn University student Lynn Nguyen, of Garden City, will present a research poster, "Identification and Characterization of Bacteria on Public Keyboards," at The Washburn Apeiron:  A Forum of Student Research, Scholarship and Creativity on Friday, April 18.

An honors student, Nguyen is a senior and is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in biology.

In the research abstract, Nguyen noted: "Does computer equipment, particularly keyboards, accessible to the public serve as a reservoir for the transmission of pathogenic microorganisms?  Thirteen keyboards were sampled from computer labs on the Washburn University campus. Specifically, two keys from each keyboard were sampled based on usage: the space bar (frequent usage) and the 'F12' key (seldom usage). A variety of microbial techniques were used to identify the isolates. Antibiotic sensitivity tests were performed to determine if any of the isolates were drug-resistant. Across all keyboards, the space bar was more likely to harbor bacteria than the F12 key, consistent with frequency of use. Thirty-eight isolates were characterized, including vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis, the gram negative enteric Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus salivarius. This study demonstrates that public-use keyboards can harbor a variety of microbes including some important human pathogens. Routine disinfection of keyboards will prevent the spread of these pathogens among patrons of public computer labs."

This presentation will fulfill a portion of the Washburn Transformational Experience opportunity, for which Nguyen must demonstrate excellence in scholarly and creative activity, community service, leadership or international education. The WTE was established to provide baccalaureate students with the opportunity to make a difference to others or society through enhanced learning designed to complement traditional college studies.

The Apeiron allows students from all disciplines to present their work in an environment that closely resembles the professional conferences and performance venues of their chosen area of study. Seventy-one students are participating in the forum and entries include poster presentations, oral presentations, exhibitions and performances. To learn more, please visit   


Contact: Dena Anson, university relations, 785.670.1711