Science Academy Students Culminate Their Year with Trip to MIT

Katie DeRose ’22
EE Staff Writer

As the 2018-2019 school year comes to an end, many clubs and other after school activities look to find memorable ways to put a close to their time together. Between the We the People team’s trip to Washington, D.C. and FCIAC playoffs for spring sports, Trumbull High students are certain that they are creating unforgettable experiences. On May 17, 2019, one after school club, Dr. Goodman’s Science Academy, spent their final meeting touring Dr. Robert Langer’s laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and meeting with researchers there.

Science Academy is an after school biotechnology enrichment for freshmen students with a strong passion for STEM, particularly the biomedical fields. After spending their year learning skills such as DNA electrophoresis and genetic engineering, the seven Science Academy students took their science skills to the next level by exploring scientific research at the collegiate level.

Upon their arrival at the university, the students were greeted by postdoctoral researcher and synthetic chemist Owen Fenton, who gave a tour of the very unique campus. During the tour, students were introduced to the original architectural styles of MIT, many of which incorporating bewildering mathematics and sciences. Walking through MIT’s Infinite Corridor and experiencing sculptures such as a man designed with the digits of Pi, students remained marvelled as Dr. Fenton explained the scientific machinery and research projects that went along with them.

After having lunch with a few of MIT’s postdoctoral researchers, the students met with Trumbull High graduate Maria Derfogail ‘15, who showed them her work with 3D-printing tissues that were to be transplanted into mice, as the researchers look for a stronger cure for Diabetes. Seeing the 3D-printer at work and looking at the cells through a world-class microscope, the students were mesmerized by the high-tech machinery used in the laboratory.

Following their visit with Miss Derfogail, the students met up with Dr. Fenton once again, who then took them through the different laboratories of the Koch Institute for Cancer. Dr. Fenton explained that this building is special when compared to other laboratory buildings as it brings scientists from different fields together to seek a cure for Cancer. Overall, the laboratory was quite riveting to the Science Academy students, from the purification system that protected researchers from large exposure to chemicals to the math and chemistry scrawled on whiteboards across the halls.

Next, the students were introduced to University of Toronto undergraduate Netra Rajesh, who addressed the pathway she took in high school and in college thus far in order to secure an internship at such a prestigious place as the Langer Labs. This helped students to better understand where they were going with their STEM aspirations.

Afterwards, students met with postdoctoral researcher Jaime Webster, who filled the room with laughter as he explained his very unconventional way of becoming an MIT scholar, including working at a chicken factory in order to support himself, and his past work at both MIT and Stanford University with Pancreatic Cancer.

Then, cardiologist Rameen Shakur discussed his research to find a cure for the heart muscle disease Myocarditis, which required substantial intellect to understand but led the students to grow with their later comprehension of such a post-collegiate level topic.

Lastly, postdoctoral researcher Xuegang Lu gave a final tour of the biology research labs, explaining their research work to find more suitable vaccination methods for third world countries and other projects regarding Cancer treatment. As a conclusion of the trip, the students were invited into Dr. Langer’s office, where they were amazed by all of his achievements, as he was not in the laboratory that day to speak with them himself.

The Science Academy students, disappointed to turn their lab coats in and return home, are certain that they will cherish this memory of MIT forever, and many of them even look to the prospect of coming back to the university either as a student or a researcher. They very sincerely thank Dr. Goodman for organizing the trip and all of the researchers at MIT for their hospitality. The researchers at MIT could not have been better role models for these students as they consider their endeavors into the world of science.

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