Scientists glimpse possible careers

Some tools of the scientific trade – photo by Carson De Marco ’20

“I think my project should be a little bit more understandable,” Sixth Former Alexander Greer said in his Advanced Lab Research Program presentation a few weeks ago. 

The program presents an opportunity for students who have mastered rigorous science courses, including Chemistry* and Biology*, to conduct collegiate-level research over the summer. Sixth Formers Toby Ma, Daniel Chow, Jack Ballenger, and Aditya Sardesai joined Greer as the participants. 

At the twelfth annual Research Symposium on Friday, January 10, students presented topics, research, findings, and conclusions to share the complex science they learned with a larger audience. 

“I focused on something more hands on and more tangible, which is soft robotics and an applied aspect of mechanical engineering,” Greer said. “What inspired me to do this field, in particular, was the Soft Robotics program.”

Alexander Greer ’20 presents his research from MIT at the Annual Research Symposium on January 10, 2020 – photo by Daniel Chow ’20

As a fourth-year Soft Robotics program member, Greer conducted his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), utilizing the soft robotic technology to develop a synthetic heart capable of simulating rhythmic patterns of a normal heart. 

Ballenger appreciated the doors the program opened for potential job interests beyond college. Ballenger spent his summer at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on gene therapy.

“I’ve realized that some of the problems are not just scientific advances, but as well as the health infrastructure behind enforcing these scientific advances and delivering medicines,” Ballenger said. “But doing strictly research, I think I could, but I’m leaning more towards working for a governmental agency or a biotech company.” 

While these Sixth Formers have completed their research and presentations, Fifth Former Nathan Tai will start his research this summer.

“I’m most looking forward to exploring a branch of science that I haven’t really gotten an opportunity to,” Tai said, “and with this summer research opportunity, I will be able to focus on something that I normally don’t, such as gene therapy.”

Aditya Sardesai ’20 – photo courtesy of Communications

Science Department Chair Dr. Daniel Goduti commented on the greater significance of the program: becoming an independent thinker and learner. 

“With your classes, you do some labs but it’s sort of different when you have to go into a space day in and day out and run a lab yourself and knowing how to run that lab, design that lab, troubleshoot that lab, and figure out all the things you need to do to dig into a research question,” Dr. Goduti said. 

The Advanced Lab Research Program not only offers an opportunity for students to delve into complex scientific topics, it also teaches educational lessons beyond the curriculum of the labs and research. 

Upper School science teacher and program leader Ms. Kara Cleffi believes the program enriches the students with real-world experiences.

“The thing that is so amazing about this program is that it’s almost like having a job. They have to show up at nine o’clock and stay until four. They take the train downtown, they go out and get lunch, and they interact with adults or people older than them,” Ms. Cleffi said. “I think it’s a huge educational experience besides the lab and actual experiments you’re running.”

Author: Carson De Marco '20

Carson De Marco '20 is a member of the journalism seminar. Recently, he won a Silver Key from the Philadelphia-area Scholastic Art & Writing Competition for his piece, "Wrongful Convictions; A Country’s Stain." Carson is a member of the soccer and lacrosse teams and a member of the Signet Society.