Preparing Boys for Life

Seniors present findings from university lab projects during 12th annual Research Symposium

Five VI Form students (seniors), including Jack Ballenger, Daniel Chow, Alexander Greer, Toby Ma, and Aditya Sardesai, presented at the 12th annual Research Symposium on Jan. 10 in The Haverford School’s Ball Auditorium. The symposium, which was attended by faculty, parents, lab instructors, and alumni of the program, allows students to showcase the research they completed in professional laboratories over the summer. The Research Symposium is the culmination of the Advanced Research Laboratory Cooperative elective run by Upper School science teacher Kara Cleffi. 

The five students conducted college-level research at various labs at the University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

The Advanced Research Laboratory Cooperative provides an experience that is rare for high school students: the ability to spend significant time doing real scientific research while also gaining perspective on a rigorous field of study. It gives them an entirely different view of the science they’ve been learning throughout their time in school, and sets them on the path to realizing that they are able to contribute to the canon of knowledge. Dr. Daniel Goduti

“The Advanced Research Laboratory Cooperative provides an experience that is rare for high school students: the ability to spend significant time doing real scientific research while also gaining perspective on a rigorous field of study,” said Dr. Daniel Goduti, science department chair. “It gives them an entirely different view of the science they’ve been learning throughout their time in school, and sets them on the path to realizing that they are able to contribute to the canon of knowledge.” 

During their time in the professional labs, the students gained real-world experience in a laboratory setting while working closely with lab directors to complete individual research projects proposed by the students. Alumni who took part in the class during their time at Haverford were in attendance. Many noted that the program provides a look into what future career paths may be available to students at a young age.

One of the most important questions in college and in life is ‘what do you want to do?’ Having this kind of exposure to research at an early age gives you a leg up. I knew what going into research or medical school would be like, and without this program, I never would have known these things as a high school student. Will McDevitt '17

“One of the most important questions in college and in life is ‘what do you want to do?’, said former program participant Will McDevitt '17. “Having this kind of exposure to research at an early age gives you a leg up. I knew what going into research or medical school would be like, and without this program, I never would have known these things as a high school student.”

Throughout their time in professional labs, each student gained skills used by scientists. Dr. Ellen Roche of MIT, served as Alexander Greer’s lab mentor, and noted that students engaging in high-level science are able to learn skills that will be useful to them both in and out of a laboratory.

“It is highly beneficial for high school students to work in laboratory settings, as they can appreciate and value the amount of work that goes into proving a research hypothesis or demonstrating an application for a new technology, “said Dr. Roche. “Learning practical laboratory skills, working with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and following rigorous analytical scientific approaches will stand to benefit students in future careers.” 

For photos of the Research Symposium, click here.

The full list of research summaries is below.

Jack Ballenger worked at the Gene Therapy Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Adeno-associated viral vectors are frequently used to treat genetic diseases using gene therapy. Jack’s work involved expressing a crucial receptor for these vectors in E. Coli. His goal was to utilize this receptor in Cryo-electron microscopy and binding studies. 

Daniel Chow worked in the Akizu Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, which studies neurodegenerative disorders. Previous data generated from the lab suggested that IMPDH2 rod and ring aggregates may have implications for neuronal death and possibly neurodegenerative disease. Daniel created two specific plasmids, used for CRISPR editing, to create cell lines in order to study the IMPDH2 rod and ring aggregates.

Alexander Greer worked in the Roche Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Novel research on the structure of the heart points to soft robotic technology as a pertinent medium for the development of synthetic heart replacements. Alex’s work detailed the creation of a soft robotic benchtop model to simulate the function of the heart as a proof of concept to inform the development of future implantable synthetic heart replacements. 

Toby Ma worked in the Rader Lab at the University of Pennsylvania as part of the Gene Therapy Program. He investigated the role of protein sortilin in VLDL secretion in the liver and the development of atherosclerosis. 

Aditya Sardesai worked in the Rader Lab at the University of Pennsylvania exploring the molecular mechanisms linking Ilrun, a novel lipid and coronary artery disease-associated gene, to atherosclerosis development. He explored the effects of Ilrun on inflammatory gene expression in an ex-vivo study using bone marrow-derived macrophages from mice.