Stuyvesant Hosts Celebrate Science Night

Stuyvesant Parent’s Association hosts Celebrate Science Night to showcase the recently completed independent research projects of Stuy seniors.

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The Stuyvesant Parents’ Association (PA) hosted Celebrate Science Night, an annual event showcasing independent research projects that Stuy seniors completed in the past year, on January 5. The students who participated in this event were enrolled in the Regeneron research course taught by Mr. Econome, Dr. Tu and Ms. Schweitzer. 

Stuyvesant Research Coordinator Dr. Meng-Ping Tu coordinated the event with the PA, with the Association playing an important role in setting up the event and providing refreshments for attendees. “[The PA] were the ones who connected us with the keynote speaker through their connections, which is really great [...] The parent volunteers [...] were the ones that worked with student volunteers to arrange all the tables and arrange the refreshments to get things ready for [the audience and] the presenters,” Dr. Tu said. 

The event was open to all students and parents to attend. When the doors opened at 4:00 p.m., attendees were able to view and examine the various poster boards highlighting a wide array of research topics. They were encouraged to interact with the student presenters and ask them questions about their research projects and experiences. 

One of the most important parts of the event was the presentation given by keynote speaker and Stuyvesant alumna Isabelle Clark (‘13). She began by giving a quick summary of her career after graduating from Stuyvesant, primarily focusing on her time at Duke University and her pursuit of a PhD in biological anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Then, she went into depth about her research in the territory of the Ngogo chimpanzee reserve in western Uganda, which centers around the development and social behavior of chimpanzees. “What I’m focusing on right now is figuring out how [young chimpanzees] learn how to participate in intergroup conflict and just territorial behavior in general, how they are learning about other groups and why some individuals end up being more [warrior-like] than others,” Clark said.

Clark also shared her advice for students interested in pursuing research. “Just because you’re in high school, don’t let yourself think that you are not qualified or you’re not ready yet to do real research [...] Your biggest strength is your enthusiasm [...] If you don’t get a response when reaching out to someone or get rejected from some program you applied to, don’t let that discourage you too much. Continue to explore and dabble in as many things as you can,” Clark said.

Afterwards, there were five student researchers who presented their projects in a PowerPoint format. These presenters included seniors Kate Bondarenko, Joseph Kim, and Mason Yam, and juniors Abel Bellows and Madeline Goodwin. 

Bondarenko showcased her project about determining the effect of vitamin A on two types of liver cells through gene expression testing, which helps to compare the activation of genes between normal cells and the test cells as well as fibrosis (the thickening and scarring of tissue) and lipid accumulation (the build up of storage fat) in the liver cells. “I recently did a lab internship this past summer at the Gudas Lab, which is a part of Weill Cornell Medicine, which is where I studied liver cells and how vitamin A affects two types of liver cells through gene expression testing. I also tested fibrosis and lipid accumulation in those two cells,” Bondarenko said. 

Attendees seemed to be extremely interested in Bondarenko’s work. “Students asked really good questions and follow-ups which I really liked because people were invested in my work and wanted to learn more about it. A lot of kids took notes, which I liked. People seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing,” Bondarenko said.

The goal of Bondarenko’s presentation was to share with students her insight on the research process that she has gained from her experience working at a lab. “I enjoyed talking to people about my research and sharing what I did in hopes to inspire people to go into research, especially women,” Bondarenko said. 

The turnout among underclassmen at the event was quite high. They were able to learn about the seniors’ experience in labs to guide their own research journey. “I have to say I really appreciate the 9th-grade teachers that they help me to spread the word. This year you can see that we have a huge representation of underclassmen and I think that’s really good. And I really enjoyed seeing the underclassmen [...] asking all these questions, and the seniors were being very patient in explaining things,” Dr. Tu said. 

Sophomore and attendee Madeline Chin was able to hear from many researchers about their experience in the field and how they handled the work. She gained unique insight on the research process that she previously did not know. “I learned that having a mentor is more of a support person than a leader. They help us run experiments and give us access to their lab, but we are the ones who take charge of our research while they stay as more of a support system,” Chin said. 

Sophomore and attendee Naoki Conning also went to explore the various projects that were submitted to the Regeneron contest. “I went with my dad as he was very curious as to what happens in the Stuyvesant Research program [...] I was also interested in seeing the unique types of projects that are doing well,” Conning said. 

The Celebrate Science event was the culmination of the seniors’ research projects. Senior and student researcher Kai Li reflected on his research journey and the closure that the event provided him. “The last Celebrate Science event I attended was as a curious visitor [...] so I think it’s cool this time to be on the other side of the table and talk about my research, so there is a feeling of completion with that,” Li said.