Pushing past Senior Research Project stereotypes

Jan. 28, 2020, 1:23 p.m. | By Joy Xu | 1 year, 7 months ago

Not all students who complete a senior research project (SRP) are in the Magnet Program

On Jan. 9, a hundred seniors gathered in Blair’s Student Activity Center to share their summer internship research to scientists, mathematicians, friends and family. Senior Research Project (SRP) is a tradition for Blair Magnet students to complete a STEM research internship over the summer between their junior and senior year. While SRP is usually synonymous with the STEM Magnet program, not all seniors who complete an SRP are in the Magnet. 

Magnet teacher Angelique Bosse runs the SRP A/B classes, which are theoretically open to all students who want to complete an SRP. “Blair High School also has a research program in place for students who are non-Magnet who can also do a similar research project process. I welcome kids if they come to me, but I do not actively recruit [non-magnet] students,” Bosse says.

Photo: Senior Nate Kelkay working on his Senior Research Project over the summer.

This year, two of the three non-Magnet students who took the SRP class were exposed to it through cross-country. Seniors Takeshita Sho and Max Worley are both on the cross-country team that Bosse coaches. “In SRP A, I learned to write a cover letter and a scientific research paper. In SRP B, I wrote a paper, made a presentation for younger Blair students and produced a poster to communicate my work orally and visually to scientists in the region,” Sho says.

Besides being a tradition in the Magnet, completing the SRP also allows students who complete the entire process to get a seal on their high school diploma. For both Magnets and non-Magnets alike, landing a summer research internship is hard. “Professors already have college students who want internships, and high school programs are highly competitive. We always have a handful of people who just are unable to get an internship,” Bosse continues. 

Because internships are competitive, non-Magnets may have a disadvantage while playing the application game. “I think I lacked the connections a lot of Magnet students seemed to have. I think for people outside of the Magnet, they need to understand that it is crucial to be looking for opportunities in the fall of their junior year,” Worley says. 

Many seniors also tapped into their extracurriculars for connections. The third non-Magnet student, Senior Nate Kelkay, got his internship through his robotics mentors. “One of my five robotics mentors offered his lab out and to also engage with some of his robotics engineers,” Kelkay says.

When it comes to the actual SRP project, Sho and Kelkay were able to work on exciting, ground-breaking research.

Sho worked at Catholic University under the Chung lab on his project entitled “Keratin 19 Gene Co-expression Analysis.” Sho first wanted to do an SRP so that he could get a feel of what working in a lab is like. His bioinformatics project helped find genes and pathways related to breast cancer for further study.

“For my SRP, I narrowed down pathways and genes and tried to find if they have a known relationship to breast cancer or Keratin 19, which is believed to play a role in the progression of breast cancer,” Sho continues. Sho says that the hardest part of the internship was reading the background info on the lab he was working on. 

The title of Kelkay’s research project is “Developing a Vision Enabled Autonomous Driving Capabilities For Competitive Robotics,” which he worked on in Intelligent Automation Inc. at the University of Maryland. “We were trying to develop a vision system on our robot and create a better system that handles things in our competition better. I worked a lot with code and debugging. This way, I focused on creating a product that our [robotics] team here [at Blair] can use,” Kelkay says.

The community around non-Magnets taking SRP may feel disjointed. “I didn’t notice any stigma, but during the SRP ceremony, I felt out of place when they had slideshows of people in the Magnet and made the event appear as if it was exclusively for Magnets,” Sho concludes.

Kelkay agrees, stating that more outreach can be done to promote the SRP class, such as by advertising on InfoFlow. “Overall, I do like the idea of spreading it to other students, because the ones that come are the ones that are interested and have the motivation to complete the work,” Kelkay concludes.

At the end of the day, not all students who complete an SRP are in the Magnet. No matter what, each and every student who completes an SRP gains a comprehensive and innovative lab experience.

Last updated: Jan. 28, 2020, 1:26 p.m.

Tags: magnet program Senior Research Project SRP

Joy Xu. Hi! My name is Joy, and I'm the News Editor. Aside from writing articles, I enjoy playing violin for pit orchestra and making desserts for my friends and family. During the school year, I run Blair's DECA club, and I participate in many business-related activities. More »

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