On Saturday, February 25th, 2017, I walked into Mr. Jayo’s room, my nerves buzzing with excitement. It was the first day I would begin my classes for the Teen Research Internship Program (TRIP) Initiative, a student-based program for those who want to challenge themselves in the field of science.
I have to admit, I was a little bit scared because I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that we were going to use fruit flies as our model organism and learn how to operate in a lab from the information my Physics teacher sent me—but besides that, I had a lot of learning to do. However, after meeting my fellow classmates and mentors, I learned that I had nothing to be worried about. They were all very welcoming and supportive, and it was nice to be a part of a group that held similar interests.
After the first couple weeks of us getting used to the lab equipment, each other, and becoming experts on fruit flies, we began our own independent projects.
Each student was to design his or her own independent project that would later be presented in front of our parents, friends, TRIP alumni, some of William Tennent’s faculty, as well as our mentors.
For my final project, I decided to test the effects of Folic Acid, Lipoic Acid, Vitamin E, and Metformin on fruit fly fertility. Flies are the perfect models to test fertility because they share about 70% of their DNA with humans, are inexpensive and otherwise ethical, and compared to the 9 month reproductive cycle of a human, a 9 day life cycle in which flies reproduce is much more easily quantifiable.
Dr. Purdy, the director of Fox Chase Cancer Center’s TRIP Initiative, encouraged me to share my story with the audience during my presentation, and I am so happy that I listened to her advice. (A little tip in case anyone is interested in applying to the TRIP Initiative—which I strongly encourage—she gives a lot of good advice that is worth following).
Saturday, May 13th, was the big day: nine students from the morning session and nine students from the afternoon session presented their projects to the public. Despite how nervous I was, the experience left a huge impact on me.
The reason I chose to do fertility for my project is because when I was about 13-years-old, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which is one of the leading causes of infertility in women in the United States today. The likelihood of me having to take medication to aid in the process of reproduction when I want to have children later in life, is almost a hundred percent.
Sharing such a personal part of myself with strangers was incredibly difficult, but I couldn’t be happier that I listened to Dr. Purdy’s advice.
After the first round of presentations in which I was the second presenter, people went to the refreshments, and a member of the audience who happened to be the mother of one of my peers approached me and told me about her personal experience dealing with PCOS. When I initially thought about sharing a part of myself with the audience, never did I anticipate that anyone would even know what PCOS is.
This woman said to me, “You just told my life story.”
When she was younger she always wanted to have a big family, but her PCOS caused infertility problems, so she tried all the different fertility drugs. She tried Folic Acid and Vitamin E, as well as some other ones that I had researched for my project but found that they were too expensive for me to use in my experiment. She was amazed that I had used Metformin to test fertility because not many people associate Metformin with fertility, which is what helped her have the 5 healthy kids that she has today.
Being a part of the TRIP Initiative has touched me in a way that I won’t ever forget. Having someone say, “You just told my life story,” and getting to connect with someone who went through something that I will most likely go through—is ineffable.
It’s something I will never forget.
Being a part of TRIP has also helped me with my shyness, and breaking out of my shell. Dr. Purdy, Ms. Pellegrin, and Ms. Wagner wouldn’t take my reluctance in opening myself up to other people for an answer, and I’m glad that they didn’t. I’ve made some really awesome friends through this experience, all of whom encouraged me to open up and share my thoughts with others.
Whether or not you think that you’re going to be a scientist or an accountant or a writer or whatever you so choose to pursue, I recommend applying to this program, because you never know how an experience is going to shape you until it actually does.