Walk the Wa(l)ksman


On December 7, the John P. Stevens Waksman Scholars Program traveled to Rutgers University to display its current genetic research on the duckweed species, Landoltia punctata.

The Waksman program provides opportunities for high school students and their biology teachers to participate in and contribute to an authentic research project focusing on molecular biology and bioinformatics. In the midst of a very productive year, Mr. Jones and the team displayed poise and academic achievement in front of the panel of scientists and
researchers at the university. After an outstanding presentation, the event culminated with a dinner sponsored by Rutgers.

Senior Anmol Mittal recounts, “There were sighs of relief after I realized that all the hard  work, time, and dedication that came with being an LSS (Lead Student Scientist) proved to be successful. I am pleased with our work so far.” The team maintained high spirits after the results solidified their efforts and dedication into success. The research also presented by other schools around the neighboring counties was highly analytical and JP scholars demonstrated their understanding of genomic sequences, DNA replication, and DNA architecture by testing extract through gel electrophoresis, a process used to separate and analyze macromolecules such as DNA, proteins, and RNA. Each participating school had to outline its areas of improvement because the program director believes that acknowledging weaknesses stimulates progress. Teams had various opportunities to discuss findings with each other, fostering a learning environment among the scholars.

Of course, the hard work necessary for the research was not conducted in one day. Since early October, JP scholars have committed time and effort to their research. Many students arrived at school in the morning and stayed after school hours in order to get a head start on procedures that helped decode the genome. The process was arduous, yet very satisfying. Senior Rajvi Shah says, “I regularly come to prepare for the upcoming procedures of the research, which is time consuming yet highly rewarding when good results appear. Waksman has taught me essential time management skills.” Rajvi is one of several seniors who will apply this work ethic in her future studies after completing this program.

With his students’ stellar presentation, Mr. Jones is very confident. “I know that there is a lot of potential in the team because we all strive for excellence,” says Mr. Jones. With the program only halfway through the school year, there is no doubt that JP Scholars will finish their research and present their findings in April.

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