POSTERSNueva recently made the decision to create a novel research and biology program that will produce students skilled at communicating complicated information, identifying the cutting edge of research in specific fields, and executing research to further push that edge.

The first step in creating this program is working to create a culture of authentic inquiry surrounding research and biology. Upper school biology teacher Luke De said, “In order to show students what was possible, they had to see real science in action — stem cells forming themselves into a heart on a petri dish and then see it beating. They had to challenge and be challenged by researchers at the top of their fields. Most importantly, that had to see that students have a place in science and research.”

With this in mind, at the end of April ten students and three teachers from the Upper School traveled to Chicago to attend and present at Experimental Biology 2017 — a conference showcasing the most advanced research in a variety of fields, including stem cell research, nutrition, cancer, CRISPR, and gene editing.

Upon returning from Chicago, upper school biology teacher, Luke De, shared with his colleagues that “the trip was a complete success. It far exceeded my goals.”

According to Luke, this trip accomplished many things. “This trip is the beginning of a much larger research plan. The trip inspires students. It rejuvenates teachers. It shows teachers the cutting edge of science and the cutting edge of teaching.  This trip puts students in the best possible position to be excited about and successful in science. All of this creates a buzz that will allow for the formation of a robust and unique research program.”

One parent reflected on the experience by saying that the trip “reinforced our daughter's passion for science and medicine, and taught her that great scientists make for great science — irrespective of their institution.”

One student reflected, “I honestly consider this trip to be one of my favorite Nueva trips — the science was inspiring.”

Another student said, “Being around a group of people who cared about science as much as me was the best part of the trip.”

What follows is a collection of the student-created blog posts created at each night during the trip.

 

 

Day 1: Arrival in Chicago and Miller’s Pub
April 26, 2017

DFTF DayOne

Today we departed from school around 2:00 pm and headed to SFO. We arrived at the Palmer House Hilton at around 11:30 pm, checked in, and went to our rooms to settle down. Then, the group decided that we wanted to eat again.

We met up in the lobby and found a place by the name of “Miller’s Pub” right outside our hotel. We stayed in the Miller’s Pub for quite a while, talking, laughing, and trying some bizarre foods such as apple pie with cheddar cheese on top. Luke convinced us that these were Chicago favorites.

By the time we walked back to the hotel, it was already 1:30 am. Overall, today was a great start to our trip, and we’re all pumped to get into the science that we came here for!

 

 

 

Day 2: ASBMB, Exploring the City, and DEEP DISH!
April 26, 2017 

DFTF DayTwoToday was eventful, filled with science, deep dish pizza, Ferris wheel rides and more!

We registered and spent the first two hours in the undergraduate poster room–observing and interacting with several undergraduates who presented their biological experimental research. The posters we saw were really engaging, ranging from the importance of oxytocin in clinical depression diagnosis to lung amputation of salamanders.

After the poster session, we split into groups to hear a series of talks.
One group went to a talk on osteocytes (bone cells) and the other went to a talk on how cancer, obesity, and depression are correlated and their changes in vascular structure.

We then took a walk to a pretty late lunch, where took Luke took us on a brief (40 minutes) but absolutely beautiful waterfront detour through a cherry blossom park.

We ate lunch at the Burger Bar in the South Loop and enjoyed truffle fries, burgers, and milkshakes (and amazing company). After we finished lunch, we walked alongside Lake Michigan to Navy Pier to ride the eponymous Ferris Wheel and experience a one-of-a-kind view of the Windy City (and ride some more rides).

Dizzy and laughing, we went to a proper Chicago deep dish dinner at Giordano’s pizzeria and finished three deep dish pies and one thin crust. Dinner was full of laughter, science, playful banter, and wonderful food.

After dinner, we walked to the infamous bean and took lots of photos. We then made our way back to our hotel and are now tired and ready for bed. All in all, it was a great first day in the Windy City and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow!

 

 

Day 3: Science All Day!
April 25, 2017 

DFTF DayThreeScience, more science, and science again.

This would be the one sentence summary of our second day here in Chicago. After a Starbucks breakfast, all thirteen of us hopped into the shuttle and were off to the conference. With a seemingly myriad number of possible talks and featured posters, we all split up in groups of two/three to attend featured talks with topics ranging from neurobiology and disorder eating to 3D organ printing.

After a couple hours of hard core lectures and symposiums, we ate a quick lunch outside of the conference (and thoroughly savored the much needed fresh air). After lunch, we went back into the belly of the beast and Julie, Hanna, Luke and Maddie attended a panel discussion on women in physiology where we got to converse with the featured speakers about what it’s like to be both a woman in the scientific community and how high school students can navigate the scientific sphere of the 21st century.


Later in the afternoon, some of us walked around the conference’s equivalent of Quest Expo where we spoke to undergrads, PhD students, and even some tenured professors about the advances in science their respective institutions are making.

What started out as a sarcastic questions became a challenge: find the most convoluted and abstruse title (preferably with some greek symbols, numbers, and the most jargon) and listen to the author’s spiel and see if we can (at the end) summarize it in plain English.

Our personal favorite was one research project which studied 3-methylcholanthrene and 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene and their relation to the way humans metabolize drugs. To be honest, we still don’t know what exactly 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene is, but we do know that it can be used (and was shown) to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy used to treat lung cancer.

Although we might not have understood all of the talks, posters, and symposiums we saw, the experiences and memories we continue to make here are what really matter.


Maddie, Julie, and Hanna were enthralled by a muscular skeleton with all of its organs, tissues, and even fingernails preserved. We are expecting to see one of these in our school very soon, nudge nudge wink wink. It was definitely an amazing experience to visit the booth displaying the work of this German-owned company.

I was also really interested to see a necrotic lung that was on display because it physically visualized not only the idea behind smoking, but it’s severe consequences to the body. Amanda informed us that this company originated with an artist that used the corpses and arranged them in expressive ways. For example, one of his art pieces was the corpse of a man with his brain cut open as he sat deeply focused while playing a game of chess.


While we perused the poster area, the rest of the group sat in a variety of lectures (Including, Elephants and Evolutionary Medicine: New Perspectives on Cancer Treatment). If we were to combine all of the information the thirteen of us absorbed today, it would represent over fifty years of the work and devotion of the scientists we encountered. It is unreal.


We left the conference at 5:30pm and headed back to the hotel and then out for a Chicago Dog Dinner. After another amazing “family” dinner full of laughter, ketchup shaming, and a gargantuan amount of food, we walked back to the hotel in two groups. The girls went with Amanda and stopped at Target to get some late night fruit and snacks and the boys with Luke and Trip to play ping pong.

Although the majority of the day was rigorous science it had a very uplifting and memorable ending. We are definitely sad that tomorrow is our last day but we can’t wait to present OUR poster tomorrow morning!

 

 

Day 4: Presenting our Poster!
April 25, 2017 

DFTF DayFourAfter yesterday’s escapades, we all settled down for some much needed sleep. Some of us, however, decided that deep dish pizza followed by hot dogs was too much to eat without some exercise, and woke up early to use the gym at the hotel. Others wisely chose to stay in their rooms and catch up on sleep. Both groups met at the local Starbucks at 9:45 and we left the hotel for the conference by 10:00.

The first half of the day was filled with biology symposiums focused on everything from using the short-lived killifish to model human aging to studying squirrel hibernation to help prevent the death of US soldiers.

The talk about squirrel hibernation was about a group of scientists that analyzed the hibernation patterns of the 13-lined ground squirrel. Apparently, these mammals can reach body temperatures of only 5 degrees Celsius during hibernation, consume only 2% of normal O2, and slow their heart rate down to only a few beats per minute!

During hibernation, the squirrel would switch from consuming glucose as an energy source to something called betahydroxybutrate. What these scientists did was create a mixture of this betahydroxybutrate and melatonin, which extended the lifespan of rats that had been drained of 60% of their blood.

Instead of dying in 6-7 minutes, the rats were able to survive for over three hours on this cocktail! The number one cause of death in the military is bleeding out before a doctor can arrive, so implementing this in humans could mean saving hundreds of soldiers who bleed out before they can access medical care. They are currently about to proceed with clinical trials, and hopefully future implementations in the US military.

Just past noon the team met up to present their laboratory project to the general audience of the convention, while the non-authors enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches, curries, and chicken.

After lunch/presenting, we spread out for one more symposium before boarding the shuttles to the airport.

 

 

 

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