Sixth Formers participate in Advanced Research

Adamya Aggarwal ’22 and Mitav Nayak ’22 do research at UPenn in July 2021

Over the summer, rising Sixth Formers participated in the Advanced Research Programs in history and science. Students were given the opportunity to research topics that interested them. After their research is complete, students will develop their academic thesis guided by Haverford teachers or college professors. 

“The science research program did not run this summer due to the pandemic, but a few students did a project on their own,” biology teacher Ms. Kara Cleffi said.

“I’m really interested in the sciences, particularly biology and gene therapy,” Sixth Former Mitav Nayak said. “Since Haverford has this resource for us to take advantage of, I thought it was a great opportunity, so I reached out to Ms. Cleffi.”

Although the science department technically paused the research program, with assistance from Ms. Cleffi, Nayak was able to reach the University of Pennsylvania’s Wilson Lab, which focuses on gene therapy and rare disease research. 

I was mostly interacting with my mentor and doing research under him, but we had a group where we heard from researchers and scientists in speaker events. Meanwhile, we worked on our own research and presented our results at the end of the program.

Mitav Nayak ’22

“It was a six-week program with a few other high school students in the area. We each had our research mentors, all under Dr. Wilson’s program,” Nayak said. “I was mostly interacting with my mentor and doing research under him, but we had a group where we heard from researchers and scientists in speaker events. Meanwhile, we worked on our own research and presented our results at the end of the program.” 

The history program was able to continue, with some modifications. 

“To apply you need to write an essay explaining why you’d like to participate in the course and propose a topic,” history teacher Mr. Timothy Lengel said. “Usually, the history department and sometimes English teachers meet to discuss the strength of the various applications. But because of COVID, this year Dr. Gertler and I ultimately run the program ourselves.”

Students initiated their general research during the summer.

“We had a summer reading assignment, which was essentially reading eight-plus books on your topic. Some of them are broad, some of them are more specific. So far we are gathering some general research materials, and we may use them going into the year,” Sixth Former Samuel Kohl said. 

The program is expected to take a full year to complete.

Over the summer I made my initial bibliography of ten books as I read and annotated them. Now I’m trying to narrow down the topic, as I switch from broader books in the general history of country music to more specific books.

Sam Kohl ’22

“Over the summer I made my initial bibliography of ten books as I read and annotated them,” Kohl said. “Now I’m trying to narrow down the topic, as I switch from broader books in the general history of country music to more specific books.”

Mr. Lengel has planned the program’s next steps.

“Every two weeks, they will present a tutorial-style class: one or two of them will present another five pages or so of their essay. Everyone will discuss those five pages. We’ll critique those five pages as we celebrate the good and try to find where things can be improved. The final product will be a major essay,” Mr. Lengel said.

Overall, students from both programs were able to make significant gains in their specific research topics, as well as general research skills and the ability to cooperate.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot of knowledge about how the research world works and how professionals approach their research and demonstrate leadership in their fields,” Nayak said. “We were able to interact with people who are at the top of their professions. I was able to see how they go about their day-to-day lives and handle things.”

The programs should benefit the students involved.

I really want to be able to hold my essay in my hand at the end, but I also want a lot of experience.

Sam Kohl ’22

“I really want to be able to hold my essay in my hand at the end,” Kohl said. “But I also want a lot of experience. Working with Dr. Gurtler, I’m definitely going to take away a lot. I want to major in history in college and definitely do something in the humanities, but if I come out of the program thinking that’s not what I want to do, it still taught me an important lesson and guided my college major research. So it’s truly a valuable experience.”

Author: Jingyuan Chen '23

Jingyuan Chen has written for The Index since 2019. His news piece “Inside the middle school construction project” and his opinion “What can the U.S. learn from Chinese media censorship?” each earned a Silver Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Writing Awards.