SRP Summer Internships Inspire Student Work

Radiation. Cancer therapy. Environmental engineering. Empathy. Granular materials. These are just a few examples of the subjects that the students in Science Research Program (SRP) investigated at professional laboratories over the summer. SRP is a four-term signature program that offers students the opportunity to practice professional laboratory science. It is divided into the Biology section, which is advised by Dr. Allison Nishitani, and the Quantitative section, which is advised by Dr. Christopher Hogue. The application is open during winter term to all sophomores who are interested in science, with 16 students admitted to the program in their junior year.

For the first three terms of the program, the students read professional journals, learn how to present complicated information to the general public, and write scientific articles. The program advisers work closely with each student, helping them find labs for their summer internship. After completing the internship, SRP students write a manuscript of their summer work, create a poster that summarizes their research, and present in Student Lecture Series at the end of fall term.

“SRP is an amazing program because it is very unusual to get the opportunity to work in an academic research lab at a high school level,” commented Dr. Nishitani. “The internship experience is special because students get to investigate something that has never been done before, and they get to have a first-hand experience of a research scientist.”

Mehreen Pasha ’18 worked in a lab at Yale University that studies heterotaxy, a disease in which one or more of the organs are on the wrong side of the body. Her research focused on identifying the function of a gene called CFAP45, which is found to be mutated in a patient with heterotaxy.

“It was amazing that my mentor and PI had me dive right into experiments quickly, and I was very grateful that they trusted me with all of their equipment in completing these crucial experiments for the overall goal of the project,” said Pasha. “I had a lot of fun in the lab because every Friday, there was a time for all the lab members to bond and talk about non-science things.”

James Rose ’18 researched at Department of Chemistry in New York University, and his goal was to design frameworks to include specific organic molecules. He analyzed 3D structure of molecules and experimented on chemical synthesis.

“I was in Material Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSAC) program at NYU,” said Rose. “It was amazing to see what it’s like to pursue science and to experiment chemical synthesis, which is taught at college and graduate school level.”

Victoria Song ’18 studied in the Astronomy Department at Yale University. She learned how supermassive black holes affect the overall shape of their host galaxy. She worked at the lab of her favorite scientist, Meg Urry, and she programmed and analyzed data to model and estimate the effect of the black holes.
“One of many cool moments in my lab experience was an event in the Yale planetarium hosted by the Yale Astronomy Department,” said Song. “A graduate student who sounded like a sarcastic Neil deGrasse Tyson gave us a tour of various constellations and planets. It felt like I was watching a movie.”

Richard Lopez ’18 researched the development of the kidney at University of Southern California. His research project focused on elucidating kidney formation process by experimenting with tip cells, which are developing structures of the kidney.

“I learned so much about scientific research in general,” commented Lopez. “It was exciting to learn about ongoing researche related to kidney diseases, and it definitely has deepened my interest in science.”

The SRP advisers hope that the students have gained an appreciation for science through their summer internship. “I don’t even expect that every SRP student would be a professional researcher in the future,” said Dr. Nishitani. “I hope that SRP students feel confident that they have made a huge achievement of being able to read professional scientific papers and to conduct experiments at a professional lab.”

Dr. Hogue added, “Whether they enjoyed the experience of SRP or not, the students have learned many valuable skills in life, such as building a life-long friendship with their classmates, learning how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation, and collaborating as a group. I hope these skills help them for the remainder of their Choate experience and beyond.”

See the results of these students’ work at the SRP Student Lecture Series on Tuesday, November 7 and Thursday, November 9, in Getz and Elman Auditorium.

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