Science Academy Students Tour MIT, Langer Lab

Manya Kidambi ’18
Anjeli Sambasivam ’18
EE Staff Writers

Recently, the Science Academy, headed by Dr. Goodman from Agriscience, travelled up to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for an immersion in science and technology. Funded by the BEI and the Langer Lab, this experience was an unforgettable one for the students, and a plethora of information was funneled out of it. It involved a campus tour, a myriad of presentations and demonstrations, and best of all, a visit to the prestigious Langer Lab.

According to Sheryl John, a freshman, “I am so glad that I went to MIT! The trip was really worthwhile and I enjoyed it a lot!”

The Langer Lab, headed by Dr. Robert Langer, focuses on the study and development of polymers in order to create artificial organs and deliver drugs. Dr. Langer has written over 1,300 articles and has over 1,080 patents.

Langer has received the United States National Medal of science and shared his wealth of knowledge to many high school students around the country. The students were eager to absorb the valuable information provided to them by Dr. Langer and were prepared with various questions.

Upon entering the college campus, students were escorted to a room, in which the topic of discussion was creating an artificial pancreas, as well as other genetically engineered body parts to help with various ailments, such as diabetes.

This was led by Matthew Webber, who had recently completed his PhD. A current resident at the Langer Lab, Webber specializes in biomedical engineering.

After a presentation on the uses for the genetically engineered parts, he led the group into a question and answer session. During this period, a variety of questions were asked, ranging from stem-cells to science in Captain America.

“I learned so much from this researcher and I was able to get answers to a lot of questions I had before about science in general,”says John.

Following this presentation, students dressed in lab coats, donned purple gloves, and set out to visit a section of the Langer Lab. Led by Xian Xu, an experiment was performed to create a polymer.

This demonstration showed how seaweed polymers formed spheres when placed in a solvent, and this creates cells that can be placed in a person with diabetes to work like a fully functional pancreas. The cells produce insulin, and this helps to prevent the body from rejecting it in the future.

After venturing to Lobby 7, the main meeting area of the campus, they were greeted by a tour guide show showed them the bustling, technology-driven campus.

Students were in awe as they viewed the Athletic Building and the Student Center, where they witnessed the daily lives of MIT undergraduates.

During this excursion, the students were educated on the many hacks, or random pranks, on the campus. Although one may be surprised MIT students engage in hacks due to the serious nature of the school, amusing alterations to the campus frequently occur.

One time, a fire hydrant was attached to a water fountain, and students were forced to drink out of it until it was shut down. All in all, the pranks are hilarious, and nobody really minds them, since they are a part of campus life.

After this tour of the campus, the students were greeted by Sid Jhunjhunwala, an engineer who is a current member of the Langer Lab. He specializes in drug delivery, biomaterials, and immuno-engineering. Jhunjhunwala gave a tour of his lab where the students had the opportunity to view small cells under microscopes. The students were intrigued as they had a chance to view the environment which Jhunjhunwala works in each day in the Langer Lab.

Jhunjhunwala instructed the students on microorganisms, and the environments in which they could survive.

For the final expedition of the day, the students ventured to the lab of Kevin Kauffman, who had recently earned his graduate degree.

Kauffman greeted the students as they entered the same section of the Langer lab with a tour of his personal lab space, as well as the lab he worked in. The students were presented with the opportunity to ask questions about the lab on topics ranging from hanging shoes to distillation equipment.

Though the trip was a short one, it captivated the minds of all students in attendance.

In the words of freshman Julia Esposito, “The trip was awesome, and I’d love to go back another day!”

An unforgettable exploit through the campus of an esteemed college provided an opportunity for students to learn more about the Langer Lab and its background.  Undoubtedly, this encouraged all students to come back in the future, possibly as a resident of the lab.

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