by Clara Hua ‘21
As a high school student, conducting research on bioenergetics, cancer or DNA might seem an impossible dream. However, at St. Mark’s this dream is a reality ! STEM Fellowship, a signature science program at our school, gives students the chance to do so. After finishing an advanced science course, V and VI formers can choose to take part in this program that aims to provide them with an opportunity to conduct high-level scientific research. They are selected through a highly-competitive application process, and they work with teachers and outside mentors on a specific research topic that interests them most. St. Markers finally compete in science fairs, and they have done extremely well in the past few years!
Here’s what several St. Markers have to say about their STEM Fellowship plans for this year:
Haley Dion, VI Form
I am very excited to continue my STEM Fellowship project over the course of this year. It is incredible that St. Mark’s offers students the opportunity to pursue their passions and conduct independent research projects. I have always been fascinated by the brain For my Fellowship, I am conducting a neuroscience project. I am researching how bioenergetics affects Alzheimer’s Disease. I can’t wait to see what the other fellows and I complete between now and the science fairs!
Megan Christy, VI Form
I think the STEM Fellowship is a great opportunity for high schoolers to gain high level research experience that is not typically available to students our age. My specific project explores how biomaterials can encourage tissue regeneration for abdominal aortic aneurysms. While experiments and testing phases have not yet begun, we have done significant amount of summer research to build a set of background knowledge for our projects. I have connected with a lot of professionals in the field I am interested in who have helped me structure my project based on their knowledge. I will be working closely with two doctors I met this summer, one from WPI and one from MIT, who will mentor me as I conduct my research. The year has barely begun, and I not only have already learned so much about my topic, but I also have learned how to communicate with professionals. I think that these skills along with everything else I learn the rest of the year will set me on a path for success in college and after!
Robby Harper, VI Form
The STEM Fellowship has been a great opportunity to study something that really interests me. It enables me to move my project in the direction that I chose, with the support of teachers like a regular class. I can't wait to see how this year goes and how everyone's projects turn out.
Rosanna Zhao, VI Form
Over the summer, I was able to intern at Dana Farber Cancer Institute where I handled patient blood samples for clinical trials. For one of the clinical trials, I learned that the researchers were injecting an HIV virus into brain tumors of different patients in a trial. The result showed that brain tumors were successfully shrunken. I was amazed by this clinical trial because I could not believe why people would inject HIV viruses into brains. However, from this experience, I learned that a negative could potentially cure a negative. This discovery revolutionized my project when I came across an article titled Cell Phone Radiation Could Protect Memory Loss. I planned on researching the correlation between cell phone radiation and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by an accumulation of amyloid-beta plaques that are damaging to neurons in the brain. Cell phone radiation, however, is able to kill of the amyloid-beta plaques present.
Unfortunately, I came across a challenge: I could not keep drosophila alive for long enough for cell phone radiation to affect them. Therefore, I am now working to discover the correlation between different colors and frequencies of flickering LED lights on Alzheimer’s after reading about a similar research at MIT. Alzheimer’s creates a disruption to neuronal synchrony in the brain which is critical for memory. The constant flickering of LED lights can manipulate brain signaling and activate an immune system cell in the brain known as microglia that can help to decrease amounts of amyloid-beta plaques. My next steps are to explore the immune system of drosophila to determine whether they have cells similar to microglia on which I can study.
Grant Gattuso, VI Form
The STEM Fellowship has been great so far. One major takeaway I have had from the process has been learning how to communicate with science professionals. A lot of the work requires communicating, asking questions, and discussing potential research projects with those professionals. I personally feel that I have gotten a lot more comfortable with these interactions through the STEM Fellowship project. As a whole, I also better understand what the scientific process is really like and how literary and lab research is best done because of this experience.
Luc Cote, VI Form
So far the STEM fellowship has been really fascinating. We recently presented our summer research It was amazing to see all the diverse topics, ranging from water bears in space to what causes Parkinson’s. We have not yet started any major experiments, but I have read a lot of extremely informative scientific articles about my project on IoT security and I am getting ready to design my experiment. We are just getting started but I am excited to see how the rest of the year will turn out!
Faith Jennings, VI Form
The STEM Fellowship is an opportunity that not only allows students to do an independent research project, but teaches students how to fail one hundred times but still succeed. Through challenging us to think outside of the box, the fellowship provides an environment where failing is simply a guidance towards our path of success. I am lookingforward to seeing the amazing projects that my peers and myself produce (I am studying telomeres which are the caps that protect the DNA at the end of the chromosomes), but also seeing the journey that brought us to our final results.
Jiwon Choi, VI From
*Writer’s Note: Jiwon is a second-year fellow. This year she’s continuing on the cool stuff that she did last year. See what she has to say!
My topic last year was to investigate the mechanical properties of a specific protein, which is chicken albumin, to evaluate its potential as a bio-ink, which is the biomaterial used fo3D bioprinting. This year, I am planning on investigating the biological aspect of chicken albumin.
STEM Fellowship feels different from the other classes because it really allows me to think about what I am genuinely interested in and passionate about and direct myself throughout the entire year. Starting from coming up with a research topic to doing background research and holding experiments, I get to decide what I want to do. However, I've also learned to ask for help from others and use my peers or teachers at this school to help conduct my research. Although it is an independent research project, I couldn't have done it alone.
My most memorable experience is when I first used the laser cutter as one of my prototypes (an idea that Mr. Wells suggested), and it actually turned out to be a very good prototype--in fact my best prototype. I realized that while conducting research, I should never be afraid of trying new ideas although they may seem totally crazy at first.
To the perspective applicants, I would tell them that the STEM Fellowship is such a great experience for those who have genuine interests and passions. They should definitely apply and take advantage of this amazing program!! Also, I would tell them not to be intimidated by the
fact that they have to complete research alone because there will be so many people (like Ms. Lohwater and Mr. Loomer) who are willing to help you.
As you can see, these St Markers have extremely diverse research topics, but clearly, they all love the experience and enjoy what they have learned so far. We can’t wait for the end-of-year outcomes of all these cool research! We’re grateful for this opportunity that the school provides. These future scientists are all hard at their work right now...