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The Paw Print

Seniors present research at Caltech through Poly Research Initiative

Bala Selvakumar

In the decorated halls of Caltech, seniors Kamryn Chan, Sharon Chou and Alexandra Kim convened with Caltech microbiologist Dianne Newman after completing a collaborative research project in the Poly Research Initiative’s Senior Biological Research elective.

With the objective of deepening their proficiency of research skills within the context of a real-world project, students in the elective designed a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method to detect two genes with clinical and environmental significance with the help of Upper School biology teacher Balakrishnan Selvakumar. The two genes degrade phenazines, which are organic compounds that can kill bacteria but can also promote antibacterial growth.

For the three seniors, the elective sparked interest in delving deeper into scientific research.

“I gained more experience with improving at hands-on activities,” shared Chou. “Optimizing my technique and workflow was a different kind of learning than the kind I was used to.”

Though the molecular biology focus of Senior Biological Research intrigues some students, others wish to pursue research in different areas. In an anonymous poll sent out to Upper School students, 87% of the 75 respondents expressed interest in a research-based class with opportunities to present to outside experts. The three highest areas of interest were science (including biology, chemistry, physics and genetics) at 58%, medicine and healthcare at 49% and journalism and publishing at 39% of students.

Regardless of areas of personal interest, however, the Poly Research Initiative seeks to shape and stimulate the intellectual curiosity of students.

“I think learning about antibiotic resistance and phenazines is valuable no matter what field you’re going into,” said Chou, who is also interested in English and policy.

In future years, the Poly Research Initiative and Senior Biological Research elective will continue to grow in scale. “The culture of choosing to engage in a space that develops real world skills, contributing to a real lab at Caltech, is how I see this class evolving,” shared Selvakumar.

Jujube Hutt
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About the Contributors
Maddie Delbridge, Assistant News Editor
Grade: 10 Years on Staff: 2 Fun Fact: This past summer I reached an exciting milestone as an international vocal soloist, honored to be the youngest artist invited to perform opera in a special series of masterclasses and concerts in Chianti, Tuscany, the birthplace of the Bel canto operatic style. Favorite Books: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare Favorite Movie: La La Land by Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Jujube Hutt, Student Contributor
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