Preparing Boys for Life

Students conduct lab research at UPenn and MIT for Research Symposium projects

Several rising seniors are conducting college-level research in science labs as part of the Advanced Research Laboratory Cooperative elective at Haverford. The students gain real-world experience in a professional laboratory while working closely with lab directors to complete the research for individual projects selected by the students. 

The students will continue to work on their projects throughout the school year and will present their work to the Haverford School community in January at the 12th annual Research Symposium. Upper School science teacher Kara Cleffi runs the program. 

Alexander Greer is working at a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Toby Ma, Aditya Sardesai, and Jack Ballenger are working in labs at the University of Pennsylvania. 

I am really impressed with Alexander’s ability to contribute to projects right away. It is highly beneficial for high school students to work in laboratory settings so they can appreciate and value the amount of work that goes into proving a research hypothesis or demonstrating an application for a new technology. Learning practical laboratory skills, working with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and following rigorous analytical scientific approaches will stand to benefit Alexander and his peer students in their future careers. Dr. Ellen Roche, MIT

Greer has been working with MIT professor Dr. Ellen Roche on designing and programming a user interface for a soft robotic control board that will allow researchers to control implantable and wearable soft robotics with variable pressure and frequency. 

“I am really impressed with Alexander’s ability to contribute to projects right away,” said Roche. “It is highly beneficial for high school students to work in laboratory settings so they can appreciate and value the amount of work that goes into proving a research hypothesis or demonstrating an application for a new technology. Learning practical laboratory skills, working with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and following rigorous analytical scientific approaches will stand to benefit Alexander and his peer students in their future careers.”

Toby’s work at UPenn’s Rader Lab includes studying the role of sortilin, a transmembrane protein, in lipoprotein metabolism in mice and cells. His lab mentor, Dr. Donna Conlon, notes that Toby is using professional techniques to conduct his research, including Western Blotting, a process in which protein samples from cells are run into a gel to separate them into different lengths, allowing researchers to find the abundance of specific proteins, such as sortilin. 

“Toby is investigating how changes in sortilin expression in different liver cell types affect lipid metabolism and cardiovascular disease risk by performing Western Blotting to detect changes in protein expression and quantitative RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) to detect changes in RNA expression levels,” said Dr. Conlon.

Aditya Sardesai and Jack Bellanger are working in UPenn’s Gene Therapy Program. Aditya is exploring mechanisms related to regulating lipid metabolism. Jack is researching ways to create genes that code for AAVRs (receptor proteins) for his project titled “Purification and Expression of AAVR for Capsid Binding Sites.”

“Early in the summer I was learning the procedure for purifying and expressing a gene, and have moved on to working on expressing specific versions of AAVR,” said Ballenger. “This will increase the comprehension of how the virus gets through the blood brain barrier and inform scientists working with this virus.” 

The students will finalize their work during the fall semester, and present their findings to classmates, alumni, family, faculty, and lab mentors during the 12th annual Research Symposium in January.