Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited the TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Katie's story.
Quarantine has undoubtedly been a challenge, but I have also embraced it as an opportunity to change and grow - mentally, emotionally, and physically.
When the coronavirus pandemic first broke out, I never knew how much this experience would alter the lives of everyone I knew. After the news broke, school was suspended and TRIP sessions were canceled but with the hope that we might still be able to emerge from the virus after several weeks. Although our hopes did not become reality, I have had the time to reflect on what TRIP meant to me and how I might make the most out of quarantine. TRIP was a program beyond science--it forced me to grow as both a teammate and a leader. It pushed my introverted nature to be social and connect with the TRIP family who, although we did not have an opportunity to formally say goodbye, will always be my teammates. My love for science was fostered, and I had the opportunity to connect my personal history with physical ailments to research and to better appreciate the true impact science can have on the world.
Four months ago, my family was planning to travel to Europe over the summer as our final family trip before my brother left for college. Besides that, I planned to go to theme parks with my friends and enjoy beaches and pools. Yes, it was a struggle when I watched everything fall to pieces, but I also knew that I had an opportunity to challenge myself. One quote which stands out when describing my experience in quarantine is “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”-Fred Devito. Quarantine has undoubtedly been a challenge, but I have also embraced it as an opportunity to change and grow - mentally, emotionally and physically.
Mentally, I have been participating in the Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering Innovation Course, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute Summer Immersion Program, and python coding classes. After about two days into quarantine, I realized how much I needed to continue to pursue science by whatever means possible. Because my summer schedule was cleared, I had several months that stared back at me vacant. Through the summer programs, I have been able to meet with kids all over the world and work to develop biomedical engineering projects with aid from our advisors. If quarantine had not happened, I would never have had the opportunity to challenge myself and grow as a scientist.
Emotionally, quarantine has forced me to put everything into perspective and learn gratitude. For the first few days, I was focused on my world falling apart rather than the whole world. However, I soon learned how grateful I was to have my health. With the Live Like Blaine Leadership Academy, I was able to work with other girls my age to design a virtual 5k fundraiser to support COVID-19 relief. Through this project, we raised over $3,000 for Feeding America and Project Home. Beyond the money we raised, I learned that even though we are all socially distanced, something deeper connects us than touch. To learn gratitude, I started creating a gratitude journal in which I simply list five things I am grateful for every day. This small shift in thinking has allowed my outlook on life to change. Spending time with my family and facetime with my friends has kept us connected and even in some cases brought us closer.
Physically, I have had the opportunity to work and overcome the obstacle of POTS through continuous exercise. For the past few years, POTS has ruled my life, but I have finally had the chance to take control through exercise and improve my quality of life.
Yes, quarantine has been a struggle for me and everyone else as we were forced to rapidly adapt to this new, socially distant lifestyle. But, I have tried to make the most of it. I will leave everyone with one final thought: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light” -Dumbledore.
Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited our TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Evelyn's story.
This quarantine has given me a new outlook and appreciation for life and all of the good and bad that comes with it.
Hello again! It has been around 4 months since the quarantine has started, and the end of TRIP. I want to start by saying that even though my experience with TRIP was different than previous years, I still learned so much from Dr. Purdy and Dr. Gardiner. Through the Saturdays I spent at the lab, I was able to learn about various lab techniques, such as micro pipetting, become a better problem solver and critical thinker, and of course, I learned all about flies! TRIP is an experience that I will never forget, and I am so thankful to have been a part of it!
Even though I was upset about the end of TRIP, there was a more pressing issue at the time: the coronavirus and the quarantine. When my school announced that we would be out of school for two weeks, I have to admit, I was pretty excited. During these first two weeks, I slept in, watched Netflix, and was very lazy. Then two weeks turned into a month; the number of coronavirus cases was still increasing, and I knew that there was no chance of the quarantine being lifted. I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t put my extra time to use, so I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series. Yes, I am aware that this may have not been the best use of my time, but I did enjoy it, and I thought it was a great way to spend the extra time I had after online classes and studying for my exams. I also decided to try my hand at baking, so my dad and I decided to bake bread, and it was really good if I do say so myself. I also decided to redecorate my room which was a process. Finally, I caught up on some TV shows and started and finished watching Criminal Minds-which is now my new favorite show. Then a month later, we were informed that school would be online for the rest of the year. At this point, I knew I needed to find more productive things to do.
I got a job as a sterilization/sanitation helper at the dentist clinic I previously shadowed at. I love working there because I get to learn on the job. I get to watch some of the procedures and learn about the different equipment they use as well as interpreting some of the x-rays of patients’ teeth. I started prepping for the SAT (i know gross). I’m sure most students are not fond of standardized tests, and I fall into that group, but this test is important for college admissions, so I decided that I would get a head start. I also continued to read books, but they have been books with more sustenance. My favorite book so far has been The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell where he discusses in-depth about success. He talks about why the “self-made man” is not true, and there are various underlying factors that go into becoming successful (I don’t want to spoil his claims and conclusions!!). I also took up a new hobby: calligraphy. I always loved watching people write calligraphy because I found it so aesthetically pleasing, so with the ample amount of time I had, I decided to finally try it. I am not the best right now, but with practice, I know I can become a lot better.
Overall, this quarantine has allowed me to do so much, but it also gave me a chance to reflect. It gave me a chance to step back and be grateful for the little things in my life. I saw the hardships that people were going through during this time, and it made me extremely grateful for my healthy family. It made me realize that I took for granted the little things in life. I took for granted all of the times I hung out with my friends, hugged them, and took silly pictures with them. Even though I’ve been able to FaceTime and text them, it’s truly not the same. I took for granted going out without a mask. I think it’s crazy that just a few months ago, we walked around with no protection, and now I feel weird without a mask. This quarantine has given me a new outlook and appreciation for life and all of the good and bad that comes with it.
I hope that everyone reading this stays safe and healthy, and don’t forget to wear your mask! Signing off!
Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited the TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Venus's story.
Not only am I putting my thoughts into action, I’m learning.
Venus in quarantine is a different breed to say the absolute least.
When school ended it was weird because they announced that we were just taking a week off, but with the intention of, you know… going back to school the next week. We were told about our mini “break” only after we’d left school. When we didn’t return to school this left everything feeling so unfinished. We weren’t given any closure with our friends who we’ll hopefully see next year, but moreover, we didn’t get any closure with the seniors who we might never see again!
In the beginning of our break, I did absolutely nothing. My schedule was packed when all of this went down; March and April are the busiest months of the year for me, no question. Mix that with the added stress of junior year: AP classes, robotics, the musical, and TRIP… well, you have the most sleep deprived version of me that exists. When everything suddenly stopped, I really had no idea what to do with myself. Taking breaks and having a lax schedule is not something I am familiar with at all; I did not know how to cope! I kind of just walked around my house in distress, texting my friends about how awful life was. That routine got old really fast and I needed some structure in my life (really I just hated that everything ended so abruptly as if the universe doesn’t run on my schedule or something), so I began finding ways to make the things that seemingly couldn't happen, happen. Whether it be having Zoom calls with women in STEM fields (or those pursuing STEM majors in college) in place of my Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) club (I called it Corona Calls--our first call was with Dr. Rhoda Moise, which Dr. Purdy hosted for a career webinar too!); having an online Trivia Night for WISE; participating in an online Hack-A-Thon with the Computer Science Honor Society where my friend Kelly and I won best beginner code (and an Amazon gift card!); having online CAD classes in place of our robotics competitions; getting my peers to register to vote through social media in place of my committee on Student Council’s usual voter registration drive; or watching all of Glee in place of my school work, I found ways to keep my and my friends’ lives as normal as I could make it.
Once AP tests arrived, my organization, sanity, serenity, and peace jumped off a cliff. AP tests were astronomically (that’s a word the kids say nowadays) stressful and unnecessary. I originally planned for three AP tests until I reminded myself that I could barely learn calculus when we had school in person, so I dropped my Calc BC test. The tests I had left were AP Language and Composition (Lang) and AP Physics C: Mechanics. With only two AP tests looming, I felt much more confident about Lang. I was pretty good at writing rhetorical analysis essays and felt really prepared overall. For Physics C, however, all caution went out the window. I was so so SO stressed out about it. Physics C: Mechanics is hands down the hardest class I have ever taken and I was just bracing myself for the worst. My physics teacher also has an insanely high average on his test and I really did not want to be the reason it dipped. When all was said and done, I felt pretty good about my Lang test and my Physics C test did not accept my submission and I wasn’t going to put myself through that torture again, so I got a refund.
The time after AP tests, May to June, was not very good for me. I had experienced the loss of a friend and then the week after was when George Floyd was filmed being murdered. Because of the isolation that comes with being in a pandemic, it was not easy for me to cope with everything that was happening all at once. I was angry. I was angry that I wasn't able to go to my friend’s funeral service, I was angry that people I knew were ignoring COVID and hanging with each other, and I was angry that people were just now opening their ears to the century year old cries of BIPOCs. I very much did not do anything actually productive these months, but tried to escape my thoughts and feelings through TV shows and movies and books. It was also a bit exhausting being the point of contact for some of my friends on issues about race. I took too much of my time, at some point it started to get unhealthy. I knew I had to clean up my act for July. So I did. I got up, dusted myself off, and tried to channel my anger in ways that are productive and impactful.
Some alumni, fellow high school students, and I created a Coalition called Police Free CSD to remove all physical presence of police in our school district, recraft our memorandum of understanding, end punitive disciplinary protocol at our schools, and expand mental health resources and visibility in our district. Being a part of creating a movement that directly impacts my school is not only liberating but reaffirms to me the importance of MY VOICE. We are still working hard to make our demands a reality, but in the meantime follow our instagram, @policefreeCSD, and share our petition with anyone you know that has ties to Cheltenham School District at all!
Not only am I putting my thoughts into action, I’m learning. I am also taking an U.S. History class with Gilder Lehrman History School through Zoom and I am thoroughly enjoying it! This class is very conscious that the way U.S. history is currently taught in schools is insufficient and as a result is unlike any history course I have ever taken. I am learning about things normally excluded from the standard high school history class, such as how Zombies were created by Haitian slaves. This course is giving me a lot of knowledge (or ammunition as I like to say) and helping me add context to what I observe happening in the world today. I also began to take part in a fellowship called the College Key Foundation Fellowship. It is helping students, like myself, navigate the college application process and also pairs us with a mentor who is in or soon to begin college. My mentor’s name is Isabella; she is going to be a freshman at Yale in the fall, and she likes Timothee Chalamet; basically, a match made in heaven. The last thing I started this month was an internship with Dr. David Weisman who does clinical research with Alzheimer's patients. Since I couldn't continue my research at TRIP, I had to find someone to replace the hole in my heart haha. Oh, I am also starting my college applications and trying to figure where I want to spend the next four years of my academic career while sitting in my room which is always fun (not). My Zoom account gets a lot of use to say the least.
As you can see, I’m back to being regular old Venus who leaves herself minimal free time, just the way I like it!! Overall, quarantine hasn’t been the kindest to my family. My mother is a nurse and my sister and I have been spending too much time together, but we’re getting through and making it work. No one has gotten sick and for that I’m more than grateful. I miss my TRIP fam so so so much and am devastated about leaving right as we were getting the hang of our assays. I also miss my larvae and getting to see whether taurine and zoloft made them geniuses. Ultimately, I hope everyone is staying healthy and is finding ways to keep sane and busy in these times when the simulation is doing a bit too much :)
Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited the TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Anjali's story.
I found new hobbies, learned new skills..., became closer with my friends, and most importantly, learned that there’s always a way to do something, you just have to be passionate about it.
For the past four months I’ve been quarantined in my house, much like everyone else, but I definitely tried to make the best of it.
When quarantine first began, I was excited to leave school and have an early summer, but little did I know that with everything CLOSED and nothing to do, it wouldn’t be that much fun. In the beginning, I spent most of my time in online school and preparing for AP exams (even though I had no clue what the format would be like), but after quickly finishing my assignments in the morning, I found that for the rest of my day, I wasn’t being productive. It was about one week into quarantine when I got bored of wasting my afternoons and started to find new hobbies. I started doing at-home workouts (because my gym closed), cleaned the house, and spent A LOT of time with my family. We went on so many hikes/walks and discovered new nearby trails! With my brother I looked for new recipes to cook each night for dinner while we also spent time watching Netflix shows/movies together, playing board games, and sharing stories while sitting on the deck outside making smores. Even though I wasn’t able to go out, visit all my friends/family, or have a normal school year, I continued to keep in touch with everyone using Facetime and social media--spending time with my family definitely made quarantine fun!
Besides spending time with my family, I continued with extracurricular activities, which is one of the big reasons why quarantine wasn’t terrible. I began taking virtual dance classes and meeting online with the Junior Achievement (JA) mentors and company members. Our company qualified for the national competition and I was even chosen to attend the virtual competition! With both dance and JA being successful online, I decided to continue with Sweatshirts to Scrubs. The original plan was to hold a summer camp in-person, but when the pandemic occurred, I didn’t know if I should wait it out, continue with an in-person camp, cancel it altogether, or come up with an alternative solution. I ultimately decided to hold it virtually, which created new challenges. I wanted to expand Sweatshirts to Scrubs across states because of this virtual platform, and currently, we have kids from 6 different states signed up!
Looking back to how I felt about quarantine when it first started to now, I can confidently say that it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. Although I wish I could’ve seen my friends and had a normal school year, there were still a lot of benefits to it. Not only did my family grow together and become more connected, I had a lot of personal growth. I found new hobbies, learned new skills such as learning how to adapt to change, became closer with my friends, and most importantly, learned that there’s always a way to do something, you just have to be passionate about it.
Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited the TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Ansh's story.
These past few months gave me a renewed sense of understanding of what is truly important in life, and what it means to be a good human being.
Let me start off by saying this: no matter how many assignments there were or how early in the morning the labs were, the experiences I encountered in TRIP were irreplaceable. We began with the basics - learning how to design experiments, carry them out, and analyze the results, as well as making graphical abstracts of our experiments when we finished. This training period helped us solidify our understanding of the lab in preparation for the second half of the program, in which we would conduct our independent projects. My project was about testing the health of flies when exposed to turmeric in their diets, and I hypothesized that flies which consumed turmeric would be healthier than the control flies. However, before I got to fully collect and analyze my results, COVID-19 forced the program to shut down, and my experiment was left unfinished.
Although my TRIP experience was cut short because of it, COVID-19 opened a new plethora of opportunities at home which I had not considered earlier. I played more board games with my family these past few months than I have in my entire life. Moreover, I played Xbox with my friends, which kept us in touch and was a fun alternative to physically seeing them. I started doing Zoom calls with my extended family on a regular basis, which allowed me to see family I had not seen in a long time.
Additionally, almost all the extracurricular activities I was involved in prior to quarantine shifted online, allowing me to continue participating in them. I worked on requirements for my Boy Scouts Eagle Rank, since I had completed my Eagle Scout Project earlier this year (I planted trees at a local temple). In my local library, I have been an executive board member on the Teen Advisory Board for over 2 years now. Although we normally meet in the library, in the last few months I was able to continue attending meetings and planning events through Zoom. We planned online activities for local teens, such as Gaming Nights, Summer Reading Challenges, and even an online “Quaranzine” magazine that they could contribute to. In addition to continuing online volunteering at the library, I was able to use Zoom to continue a Combinatorics class I was taking, which was originally held at Princeton University.
During the past few months, after seeing the various COVID-19 statistics continuously rise daily, I came to understand the true gravity of the situation. My minor inconveniences such as not seeing my friends paled in comparison to millions of people losing their jobs, and as such struggling to survive. On our part, my family made a few daily lunches for the nurses at our local hospital who were selflessly risking their lives at their jobs. These past few months gave me a renewed sense of understanding of what is truly important in life, and what it means to be a good human being.
Once the situation improves, I would love to continue my experiment through TRIP. Beyond that, wherever my academic and career pursuits take me, the lessons I have learned during this program will stay with me forever.
This program has challenged me into thinking in a way that I have never thought before.
Hey, it’s Venus again! The first few weeks of TRIP have been awesome and have gone by fairly quickly.
Now, we have started working on our own independent project. I have decided to test the effects of taurine, a common ingredient in energy drinks, and Zoloft, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills, on the cognitive function in larvae. I want to test this because as a junior in high school, my peers and I have extremely busy schedules that often result in drinking energy drinks such as Bang!, Monster, and Redbull. Unlike coffee, these energy drinks don’t just have caffeine, but ingredients such as taurine. I am curious to see how the drinks we use to keep us alert and awake in class affect how much we’re actually learning. Furthermore, many high schoolers suffer from anxiety and take SSRIs such as Zoloft. A lot of this anxiety and stress sometimes even has a direct correlation to school. I thought it would be interesting to see how taurine and Zoloft interact to discover if the capability of teens with anxiety to learn when they drink energy drinks compares to those who do not take anxiety medicine.
I’m excited to start my project and keep moving forward!
A few weeks ago, I was nervous about entering a room with seven new people with whom I would spend four-plus hours for several months. Now, I look forward to the sessions and cannot wait to meet with my fellow classmates, Dr. Purdy, and Dr. Gardiner because science is, in fact, fun.
Hey, y’all! I cannot believe we are already beginning week six; it’s true that time really does fly when you are having fun (and working with fruit flies). Throughout the past few weeks, I have been busy completing my preliminary experiment which tested the effects of St. John’s Wort and head trauma on fruit fly activity. To measure their activity levels, I used the negative geotaxis assay which measured the height flies moved in ten-second intervals. Flies that reached the top portion of the vial were deemed more active and healthy, and, after my first trial, I found that flies exposed to both head trauma and St. John’s Wort had the highest activity rate, but more trials would be needed to verify these results.
I have had the great pleasure of not only being able to experiment with fruit flies but also meeting new friends along the way. A few weeks ago, I was nervous about entering a room with seven new people with whom I would spend four-plus hours for several months. Now, I look forward to the sessions and cannot wait to meet with my fellow classmates, Dr. Purdy, and Dr. Gardiner because science is, in fact, fun.
We have finally reached the point in our TRIP adventure where it is time to work on individual projects. Although I had no idea what I wanted to test when I first entered the program, I have decided to ask the question, “how does exposure to different light frequencies affect the rate of concussion recovery?” Sticking with the theme of head trauma, I chose this topic because I have had a lot of concussions and most doctors have told me to avoid using technology because of how the light coming off of the screens can disrupt sleep. However, certain research studies have shown that varied frequencies of light can induce sleep. With this in mind, I want to know if certain light frequencies can help to readjust concussed fruit flies back to their normal circadian rhythm, allowing for a quicker recovery. Since I cannot use normal concussion testing on fruit flies, I plan to use the light response assay which will measure flies’ ability to respond to stimuli as well as their activity levels, which are both responses impaired by concussions.
I cannot wait to begin testing and to update the TRIP community on my results!
In the past two weeks, I have also been working on planning my independent research project. Initially, I decided that I wanted to study the effects that UV radiation and ginkgo biloba had on the occurrence of dementia-related diseases on both parental and offspring generations. My interest in dementia particularly stemmed from past personal experiences and also my profound interest in the field of neurology. Additionally, there is not a lot of conclusive research that can be found currently on the subject. However, seeing that UV radiation can affect more than just the brain and that it would be particularly difficult to consider and pinpoint the side effects that it may have on the fly. I decided to stick with another project that I was also equally interested in which was investigating the effects of vitamin B6 and overcrowding on the microbiome.
Again, my love for neurology and also the enteric nervous system really piqued my interest in studying the composition and density of the microbiome. Did you know that the gut acts like your second brain? The composition of the gut microbiome can have a profound impact on how one feels and behaves. Just like the research on dementia, there isn’t much information that can be found on this relationship and the chemistry behind it. Through my research, I hope to investigate this further. After exposing flies to my stressor (overcrowding) and drug (Vitamin B6), I will analyze the bacterial and chemical content of their microbiomes. Later on, I hope to take this further by using PCR, identifying the specific bacteria present.
After completing my experimental plan, I worked along with Dr. Gardiner and a few other of my classmates to finalize it. They each provided me with some very helpful constructive criticism that I believe will better my experiment. This week, I will be sorting flies (something I definitely feel more comfortable doing now) and doing some final preparations in order to move on with my research. Overall, these past couple of weeks have been absolutely amazing and I am so excited to work on my independent research project as well as continue my journey with TRIP!