I have had an amazing experience in Science Research and it has given me many opportunities in experiencing all the aspects of scientific research. I learned so much about the research process and presenting my work. When I'm not doing science I love to ski (as you can see from the picture), playing softball, playing the clarinet, and reading.
Last year, I did a fairly simple project on how different fertilizers can affect the growth of plants and their colors. I had around 40 plants and used chemical and organic fertilizers to test the effect on the plants' heights. I also used a color scale that I created myself to analyze the colors of the plants. Overall, the main purpose of the project was to guide me towards the actual process of researching through journal articles and formulating my own experiments.
This year, I got the chance to work on research the field that I love the most, neurosurgery. In this project, I worked with my mentor Dr. Ketan Bulsara, and we are looking further into a very common complication that occurs after the repair of an aneurysm rupture. We are screening the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through LC-MS and GC-MS, and will be investigating the different concentration changes every day after the patients had their aneurysm repaired. There is no know cause for this complication, and no one knows what chemicals are involved. We have gotten down to five amino acids that have had substantial increases, and we are analyzing the data of these metabolites. Phase 1 of the project has been completed, where we found normal levels of metabolites in a patients' CSF. Phase 2 data is still being analyzed and should be completed shortly. If we have the ability to identify the amino acids, we could save hundreds of patients' lives using these amino acids as indicators of the complications.
Science research has opened me up to possibilities that I thought I would never get the chance to face in high school. Catching up on research is one of my hobbies, and hopefully this program can take me further than I ever imagined. However, it's not the only thing I do. When I'm not doing anything related to school, I'm usually doing something for baseball and I also tutor for math.
Last year as a freshman, I performed an environmental project on the impact of stress on a cricket’s chirping rate (so original). I got to know the scientific method a little better and learned the difficulty of keeping crickets quiet. I enjoyed attending SCISEF and The Norwalk Science Fair. Both fairs helped develop my presentation skills and meet with other presenters from other schools! The first year was such an amazing experience that I wanted to come back for another year, so here I am!
This year, I completed a project in the field of psychology on an auditory task’s role in a visual change blindness stimulus. I looked forward to meeting with my mentor Dr. Dina Moore from SCSU and conducting my study. I had fun with the project and the study deepened my interest in change blindness. In October, I had a wonderful opportunity to attend the CT Psychological Association Convention. At the convention, I met speakers and listened to their psychology talks that were informative and engaging. I am able to attend SCISEF and JSHS this year, and I’m excited to convey my research.
Science research has been a pleasure for me and I’m sure I will be likely to come back for a couple more years! My favorite part of this program is there is no limit to what you can do. Unlike “boring” experiments in bio (frog dissection anyone?) or those CAPT chemistry labs, SRP students can perform long term studies that interest them instead! I’m grateful to be part of the SR community and participate in many events and opportunities, in addition to being under the stellar guidance of Ms. Day.
Last year, I researched the effect of perceived test difficulty on test scores. It was a very small project, but helped me get used to the program and all of the things that go along with a project like this. I was able to go to SCISEF and the CT Psychological Association Convention, both of which I enjoyed very much. At SCISEF I was able to practice presenting, as well as seeing a wide variety of student projects on varying topics. The CPA Convention was interesting because we were able to see presentations by psychologists on a variety of subjects, as well as find a speaker for the symposium this year.
This year, I am researching the effects of footwear on lower extremity kinetics during running. My mentor is Dr. Gregory from the Human Performance Lab at Southern Connecticut State University. Although we have not started research yet, we will most likely begin testing later this month. I am extremely excited to be able to work in this lab and learn more about biomechanics, a subject I haven't had the chance to learn much about before.
Science research has been an amazing class for me. It has opened up new opportunities that I wouldn't have known about before. I often go to the Science on Saturday lectures that Ms. Day has told us about and was able to go to a two week residential program last summer at Yale to take classes in various STEM related topics. This class has shown me many new fields of science that I find interesting and would love to learn more about. I'm so thankful to be a part of it.
Freshman year I saw the opportunity to show the world my mad coding skills! I completed a project that showed the efficacy of using existing internet resources with smart algorithms to mimic the features of Watson, IBM’s supercomputer! The project grabbed the attention of many, including drawing a massive crowd at its presentation screen at the world renowned SCISEF!
The following year I continued on my path of research excellence with a project on windbelts (the future of wind power)! A windbelt generates electricity through a thin ribbon vibrating in the wind! Collaborating with the biggest name in the windbelt game, Daniel Giebisch, we optimized several functions of the generator including film elasticity and number of generator units per ribbon!
This groundbreaking research opened the pathway to a my junior year project which quite literally opened the door to limitless access to energy in third-world communities! Through the optimization that took place the previous year, I designed and built a windbelt that could be constructed in the setting of a developing community giving access to electricity for lighting, cooking and water wells!
Taking a sabbatical from the world-saving business, I saw another opportunity to work with the Daniel Giebisch once again, but this time to save lives! While Daniel had created a wireless form of a heart assist device for those who suffer cardiac failure, a problem arose where monitoring the state of the patient and heart pump was no longer possible! So, Daniel requested my world-renowned expertise on the matter, where we then created a bluetooth system for monitoring the device, that can also regulate motor speeds based on patient conditions!
Yet, while a lot of my life is my research, I find time to relax, oftentimes escaping to the library to curl up with a book in a corner. I also play Varsity tennis at Amity, and lead the Computer Science Club and Science Olympiad team in my spare time!
Freshman year my project goal was to see if exercising could help to relieve an adolescent’s stress levels. Though the project was simple, it studied an important aspect of many high school students’ everyday life. After examining the data collected, I found that by exercising for at least fifteen minutes a day, a student can effectively reduce their stress levels.
This year, my project is much more advanced compared to last year. I am working with Helen Pushkarsykaya a research scientist from the Yale Medical School and Ifat Levy an assistant professor from the Yale Medical School to continue an ongoing project called The Development of Cognitive abilities, decision making styles, and personality types in adolescents. The data had been collected and I am currently working with my mentors to clean and study the data to be able to draw conclusions from the data.
So far, my experience from the science research program has been very rewarding. By being able to participate in the Southern Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair, I have been privileged to be able to practice my presentation skills and receive feedback from professionals in the field. By attending the fair, I was also able look at other students’ projects from around the state and see what other kids have been studying. I have been very fortunate to be able to have this experience and have enjoyed every moment of it!
Hi, my name is Rachel Marcus and this is my fourth year in the Amity Science Research Program. Throughout the past few years, my passion for neuroscience has flourished, and I give all the credit to the opportunities given to me from this program. I have made life long relationships in this small group of students (and Ms. Day of course). The range of ages and science interests in each advanced class allows insight of different branches of science, as well as an amazing support group for not only our projects. As a senior, I know I will look back at my high school memories and the SRP will in the forefront of some great moments.
During freshman year, I wanted to investigate the effects of voice frequency on teen girls’ memory. Although the study was rough around the edges, with a total of a whole six participants, I was able to learn from my mistakes and fuel my passion with more questions about the topic of psychology overall. Sophomore year, I wanted to continue and improve my previous research, so with the help of a school psychologist (Emily Gonzalez), I was able to look at the adolescent’s view of attractiveness based on the voice frequency. With this study I was lucky enough to be a Rising Star Poster Presenter at the Junior Symposium of Humanities and Science (JSHS) at the University of Connecticut. That summer, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the UConn Mentor Connection Program, where I was able to work in an actual psychology lab for three weeks.
From that program, I was able to continue my work with my summer mentor, Dr. James J. Chrobak. Junior year, I was able to behaviorally test rats treated with ketamine and saline to investigate the effect of schizophrenia on the use of spatial memory. This past summer I was able to go to the summer program yet again and work with a different lab, as well as keeping in contact with Dr. Chrobak. While working in the Fitch lab, I was able to help look into the relationship of dyslexia and genetics through mice models. Throughout my three weeks, I was able to look at supersonic auditory recordings of mice with specific programs and learn different methods of testing the mice. This year, I am still working in the Chrobak lab with graduate student Jennifer A. Corriveau on the effects of chronic ketamine administration and testing method on the amount of parvalbumin in a rat’s hippocampus. My experience at the University of Connecticut has been amazing and solidified my interest in a college major.
Besides being in Science Research, I am also a part of the Yale Pathways of Science, which allows me access to science related events on Yale campus throughout the year. Without the SRP in my life, many of the opportunities given to me already would be nonexistent, as well as the people I have so close with. I will forever be grateful for this program and Ms. Day for assisting me with me research for a whopping four years.
I am also a member of the Science National Honors Society. Outside of school, I occasionally attend Science Saturdays at Yale and I am a part of the Yale Pathways to Science Program. I also volunteer at the Milford Hospital—which is an amazing experience. I am able to help the nurses, patients, and staff members while getting community service hours and an insight on what it is like to work in a hospital.
In freshman year, armed with the ideal of revolutionizing our understanding of mental cognition, I set out to find the effects of stress on memory capabilities. After spending several (very productive) hours on youtube, I came up with a video to simulate a stressful environment which I had my (very statistically significant) twelve participants watch before taking a (very original) “how many words can you memorize” test. Although my methodology and results were somewhat questionable, I had fun with the experiment and it was a good introduction to scientific experimentation.
In the summer after freshman year, I conducted a very small study using the Endothelial Peripheral Arterial Tone Test to determine early risk of cardiovascular disease, but unfortunately the results were contract-bound and could not be published. During my 10th grade school year, I took part in the Sikorsky STEM Challenge, which focussed on redesigning the aileron, or wing flap, or the Connecticut State Airplane, the F4U-4 Corsair. It was a team project, and about six of us worked together to create and submit several research papers about the background of the plane, FAA regulations, and our modifications to the aileron. It was through this project I learned the true definition of procrastination; we once submitted a research paper 30 seconds before it was due. But still, we put in a lot of effort and were able to gain invaluable insights from Sikorsky engineers and exposure to the fields of aviation and engineering.
During the summer before junior year, I interned at one of Yale’s ovarian cancer labs, researching the effects of the h19 gene on the biosynthetic pathway of estrogen. Estrogen has been shown to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, but it can’t be completely eliminated from the body without causing nausea, fatigue, mood swings, and other menopause-like symptoms. The h19 gene can be used to inhibit aromatase, an enzyme used to create estrogen, and is only expressed in specialized areas, such as the ovaries, which would allow for more localized inhibition of estrogen and therefore decreased risk of cancer without such widespread side effects. The project was conducted through techniques such as the transfection of h19 into cells, DNA extraction and purification, western blots to test protein levels, and polymerase chain reactions to test DNA levels. The data supported the conclusion that h19 can be used to regulate the amount of aromatase and therefore the amount of estrogen in the body.
The next summer I worked on another internship at UConn as part of the UConn Mentor Connection Program. It approached biology from a different aspect than the traditional one of cell cultures and petri dishes: it used computer coding and other bioinformatics techniques. It examined sequences of genes known as mobile genetic elements, which can move themselves in and out of prokaryotic genomes. By tracing the mobile genetic elements throughout the genomes they have moved themselves into and replicated in, one can draw conclusions about evolutionary relationships between prokaryotes. The sequences of genes were searched for in NCBI’s online nonredundant databases using the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (or BLAST, an abbreviation which far oversells its excitingness) and then sorted based on sequence similarity into phylogenetic trees. Through this project I was able to create a phylogenetic tree based on horizontal gene transfer, rather than inheritance.
My years in the SRP have really shown me how research can be both incredibly interesting and incredibly fun. I’m very grateful to be a part of this amazing community!!
Science is not my only pursuit. I am also an underground rapper, enjoy long walks on the beach at sunset with my pet turtle who I have named “Cat in Hat”, and enjoy making hot chocolate. I intend to pursue science in some capacity in college, probably something related to psychology.