Fourteen seniors participated in the School’s Science Research Program this summer. For over a decade, Holton has provided this opportunity for participants to work in a laboratory setting, building skills and confidence while exploring areas of interest for future studies. Students apply to participate at the end of their sophomore year and take coursework as juniors to prepare for their internships, which take place the summer before senior year. They are then matched up with one of the School’s partner institutions, which include research laboratories at area universities and institutions.
Due to the pandemic, this year's Science Research Program participants were unable to work in-person at labs. Some were able to work with their mentors virtually to devise projects and analysis that they could perform from home. Those who could not collaborate virtually with mentors had to adjust their projects and instead wrote research papers on COVID-19 topics using articles and scientific journals.
“Across the board, I was so impressed with how the students handled the disappointment of not being able to work in-person at a lab and made the most of their experience,” says Research Program Coordinator Dr. Hannah Krug.
The typical in-person presentations to Upper School students and faculty were also not possible, so participants instead shared their experiences via Google Meets on Friday, Sept. 18. Among the presenters was Katie Kohn ’21, who researched the pharmaceutical approach to tackling COVID-19, including antivirals, vaccines, and other treatments now in testing, and how the media and political atmosphere has influenced the public’s view of these treatments.
“My research showed me that although the time frame for developing and clinically testing a safe COVID-19 vaccine may be longer than many desire, a vaccine is the most effective pathway out of the pandemic,” says Katie.
Bella Motsco ’21 was able to work on her project with an associate professor in University of Maryland's Department of Aerospace Engineering. She learned to design an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft that could carry her and one other passenger from her house to Maryland's campus, then visually rendered that design using NASA Langley’s OpenVSP (vehicle sketch pad) software.
“My experience was very different from previous participants in Holton’s Science Research Program," Bella says. Instead of daily immersion in the lab, she and her mentor met virtually one to two times a week so she could receive assignments and share her progress. "But I still learned so much and got a lot of firsthand experience with aerospace engineering.”
Working with her mentors in the Molecular Imaging Lab (MIL) at Howard University, senior SeKai Parker’s role was to apply artificial intelligence to segment the brain into regions of interest and quantify the activation of microglia cells. She and her mentors studied this activation after cardiac arrest in newborns, which can cause developmental defects.
“I had an amazing experience and the biggest lesson I learned was grit," SeKai says. "Even though I had to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time, I was able to improve each week by taking the extra steps of asking for help, meeting individually, as well as taking my own time to learn the brain on my own."
Below is a full list of 2020 Science Research Program participants, project titles, and partner organizations. (Click to view student presentations!)
Solving Hypersonic Flow Problems
University of Maryland Department of Aerospace Engineering
Glioblastoma and the Development of Non-invasive Biomarkers
Kashatus Lab, University of Virginia
The Effect of Ketamine on SPW-R In Vitro
Georgetown University Deptartment of Neuroscience
Finding Chaos During a Pandemic: Studying Pendulum Motion
University of Maryland Nonlinear Dynamics Lab
Pharmaceutical Approach to COVID-19
COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments
eVTOL Design for UAM
University of Maryland Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center
Research at MIL (Molecular Imaging Lab)
Sound Waves and Hydrogels
George Washington Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Coronavirus: Structure, Testing and Vaccine Development