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Menlo Students conduct research at UC Santa Cruz’s Science Internship Program

Seven Menlo students did research internships at UC Santa Cruz over the summer. Pictured above, junior Tommy Yang presents his research on Testing Bioinformatics Tools for Cancer Immunotherapy. Photo courtesy of Sally Li.

by Arushi Sahai

This summer, seven Menlo students participated in the Science Internship Program (SIP) at UC Santa Cruz, a 10-week internship program for high-school students, conducting cutting-edge research in six different STEM fields.

Over the course of 10 weeks, SIP students join an existing research project at UC Santa Cruz. 2016 Menlo SIP students included sophomores Arushi Sahai, Ashli Jain, and John Kim, juniors Tommy Yang and Julia Wang, and seniors Scott Schwab and Niky Arora.

The students studied a variety of topics including astronomy, biomolecular engineering, computer science, ecology, and more. They are paired with another student and assigned a mentor to introduce and guide them through the research process. During the last two weeks of the program, the students prepared a 15 minute talk discussing their experience at SIP and the research they conducted over the summer, revealing the diversity of research areas and projects the students worked in.

Menlo biology teacher and M-BEST Director Dr. Nina Arnberg, a SIP program specialist, recruited Menlo students to apply for the program. She and SIP Director, Professor Raja Guhathakurta from UCSC, have spent the last few years developing the program to include more interns. This past summer, a record number of over 140 students participated.

“For me, SIP was unique in the way that students were introduced to the entire process of scientific research, rather than just a segment, culminating into a final presentation where we were able to concisely compile our findings,” said Arora.

“It may sound as if the whole internship is all work and super intense, but as for me, we goofed around in the middle, lightened up the mood, and ate delicious food in the process,” Kim added.

Some students, such as Yang, choose to stay in the UCSC dorms for the week, then return home for the weekend, likening SIP to a classic summer program to prepare for college life.

Menlo students played a crucial role in their projects’ progress, contributing to the larger research conducted by their mentors. “[Being] an intern is all about helping the grad student or any researcher take on the task of the project given,” Kim said. While there is no end to their research, only continuously developing theories and data collection, many SIP interns found that they could complete their portion of the project over the summer and achieve publishable results.

“There have been scientists researching methods to predict antibiotic resistance around the world (as it is quite popular), and our results were just as good, being in the 90 to 95% accuracy range,” said Kim, who studied predictions of antibiotic resistance. With results like these in many of the SIP research projects, it’s likely that Menlo students will have their work included in an official technical research paper written by their mentors with their name on it as a contributor.

SIP requires no prior knowledge in any field of research for students to have a successful educational experience. Arora, a member of Menlo’s Robotics Club, who did her SIP internship in that field, gained new knowledge from the experience. “A few of the topics were fairly new to me this summer which made it exciting for me to learn new skills and facts that could help me complete the project,” said Arora.

SIP mentors are willing to explain the basics of a concept while still allowing interns to analyze independently. “Even if I didn't know much of the biology behind the project, I quickly caught on thanks to my mentor,” Kim said.

With an uncommon amount of support compared to other internship programs, SIP is an incredible learning experience and a valuable opportunity for Bay Area high school students.

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