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A Decade of Developing Scientists: Packer’s Independent Science Research Program

The Packer Collegiate Institute held its 10th annual Independent Science Research Symposium on Wednesday, May 22. The Science Symposium is the culminating event of Packer’s Independent Science Research Program.

The program, which has been run by Erin Schmitz since its inception 10 years ago, is a selective three-year program for students in Tenth through Twelfth Grades. Over the course of the three-year program, students identify a subject they would like to study in depth and seek out scientists at universities across New York City with whom they will work over the summers after Tenth and Eleventh Grade and during both the Eleventh and Twelfth Grade school years. In class at Packer, the budding scientists work with their peers and research teachers to hone their skills in reading research papers, giving presentations, and providing peer reviews. In addition to gaining the skills necessary to conduct laboratory investigations with increasing responsibility, the students are able to participate in science competitions their junior and senior years. (Read about this year’s award winners.) Upper School science teachers Lutz Holzinger and Hemal Pathak also support students in the program.

The evening began with a keynote presentation by Jonathan Daniels ’15, an early participant in the research program and a 2019 graduate of Case Western Reserve University. For the past three years, he has studied cognitive psychology, with a focus on learning and memory, skill acquisition, and intelligence. He will spend the next two years as a research assistant in a cognitive neuroscience lab at Yale University.

Following the keynote, eight seniors in the program gave their final presentations. Donning personalized lab coats—gifts they received from their research teachers that evening—the students gave 15-minute presentations of their research on a wide range of topics:

  • Climate Change and Its Effects on Glaciers

  • Design and Construction of a Functional Impact Pendulum

  • The Effects of a Wild Gut Microbiome on Mucosal Immunity and Disease

  • Response to Acoustic Stimuli in the Plainfin Midshipman

  • UBTF Gene and Its Involvement in Patients with Landau-Klefner Syndrome

  • Increased Histone Methylation and the Translational Repression of var2csa in Plasmodium Falciparum

  • Microbial Molecular Discovery From Radishes

The Twelfth Graders then joined the Tenth and Eleventh Graders for a poster session in the North and South Halls of the Middle School, where all of the students were able to talk to guests one-on-one about the research they conducted this year.

The eight seniors published a letter of reflection in the Science Symposium program. In part it read, “This program has instilled in us a passion for research and science that we will forever be grateful for. This program has taught us the importance of supporting our peers, managing our time well, and how to conduct high-level scientific research. This program has also taught us that hard work pays off.

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