Andover and Exeter Students Present Research at First Annual Science Expo

Displaying his model of an electrical bicycle, Tyler Dillard ’12 presented five months worth of advanced research into alternative energy in order to encourage community use of “green” energy sources. The bicycle was one of several projects exhibited at the Andover/Exeter Student Science Expo in Paresky Commons on April 22.

The Expo featured displays and presentations showcasing the independent research of Andover students in Biology 610 and advanced science students at Exeter.

Claudia Shin ’12 and Sofia Suarez ’12, two Biology 610 students, received a grant from the Abbot Academy Association to fund the event, which covered transportation costs for Exeter students as well as cork boards and other presentation supplies. Jason Kang PEA ’12 coordinated Exeter’s contribution to the event.

With the exception of Dillard’s electric bicycle, no practical demonstrations or experiments could be showcased at the Expo, because many of the projects did not have physically displayable components. Two students, Shin and Minali Mohindra ’12, gave oral presentations, while the remaining students used poster displays to outline their research process and results.

Shin’s research project explored nerve cell regeneration in C. elegans, a species of roundworms, to see if such growth can be replicated in the human body, which could ultimately benefit research about paralysis. Unlike humans, C. elegans are able to naturally regrow their axons, a part of nerve cells, and regain movement as if a nerve injury never happened. Shin conducted experiments to observe how C. elegans are able to do this.

Mohindra introduced her research on alpha-synuclein, a protein prevalent in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Since the transfer of alpha-synuclein proteins from one brain cell to another contributes to the progression of Parkinson’s, Mohindra attempted to find a way to disrupt this protein transfer.

Jonathan Cai PEA ’12 and Mihail Eric PEA ’12 spoke about their summer research experiences, which focused on specific branches of genetics and physics.

Last summer, Cai conducted a research project at New York University (NYU) on “DNA origami,” which was developed by geneticists at the California Institute of Technology. DNA origami is the arrangement of complementary DNA base pairs to construct shapes on an extremely small scale. These shapes can then be used in nanotechnology.

Eric discussed his research on changes in the element aluminum’s atomic structure when it is heated and cooled, changing physical states.

While most of the projects by Andover students were conducted as part of the Biology 610 course, Dillard received an Abbot grant to fund his work and built the electric bike in his free time. Shin and Suarez invited him to participate in the Expo because of the unique nature of his project.

Maggie Murgo ’12 gave a poster presentation on her study of the effect of feeding bacteria to C. elegans. Because humans share some biological characteristics with these worms, and the bacteria contains a gene related to the growth of cancer in humans, Murgo believes that studying the effect of bacteria on this species of worm could link her research to human cancer research.

Kang studied the effect of Omega-3 fatty acids on UV-radiation-induced cancer, while another student from Exeter, Roman Huszar PEA ’12, presented his research on antibodies that could help identify different strains of Lyme disease.

Biology 610 students worked with Christine Marshall-Walker, Instructor in Biology and the faculty advisor for the event, to organize the Expo.

Shin coordinated presenters and presentations, while Suarez handled the logistics of the exposition.

Suarez said, “We felt that everybody was doing amazing research, but our peers didn’t really know about it. We felt that this would be a great way for our peers, our faculty and the community to learn about what students were researching, and it would also be a great way to incorporate Exeter too because they’re also doing amazing research.”

Marshall-Walker said, “[Andover students] have a lot in common with [Exeter students], and I think it’s a good idea to gather equally motivated students with similar interests to share their thoughts about science. It’s a good opportunity, too, to open up [the students’] interscholastic experience before going to college.”

Shin, Suarez and Marshall-Walker were delighted with the success of the student displays and presentations and are planning to invite other New England schools with similar research programs to attend an Expo next year.

Andover students who presented their research during the poster session include Lucas Christopherson ’12, Izzy Davila ’12, Fay Feghali ’12, John French ’13, Charles Guan ’12, Tyler Kirsch ’12, Izzy Kratzer ’12, Seyoung Lee ’12, Amanda MacDonald ’12, Rachel Margolese ’12, Ryan Ramos ’12, David Russell ’12, Jamie Shenk ’12, Julia Torabi ’12 and Greg Zhang ’12.

In addition to Cai, Eric Huszar and Kang, Anika Ayyar PEA ’14, Jiapei Chen PEA ’13, Azikiwea Green PEA ’13, Sid Reddy PEA ’13 and Alex Yang PEA ’13 traveled from Exeter to share their research at the Expo.