Today in the Science Department: Honors Bio

By Parker Conquest and Brenton Hayward

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Photo credit: Parker Conquest.

As part of Collegiate’s project-based learning and independent science research initiatives, a group of five students from Upper School science teacher Sandra Marr’s Honors Biology class is searching for an alternative method of water purification.

“It’s not a lab directed by the teacher; it’s directed by the students,” explained Shaan Kapadia (‘19), “So we came up with the question. We came up with the methods.”

“Originally we had to get into groups and decide different topics we might do,” elaborated Grant Ewing (‘19). According to Ewing, students paired off and presented a potential topic to the class. The class voted on which projects to pursue, and eventually, groups of four or five student-biologists were formed, each assigned to one of the topics.

This student-run honors project, a yearlong endeavor, focuses on the merits of UV light as a purification tool. Chlorine has long been used to purify water, yet recent studies have indicated that chlorine purification may lead to certain types of cancer, including bladder and rectal cancer. “We’re seeing if a safer alternative is available,” said Kapadia. The group of emerging biologists designed their own experiment in order to test the varying effects of using chlorine to treat water against using UV light. Using water samples from the school’s fish tank, they plan to treat the water with UV light and the conventional chlorine method. Upon treatment, they’ll spread water samples across petri dishes and incubate them. Finally, the group will compare bacteria growth in the UV light sample, the chlorine sample, and the untreated control sample.

“It’s kind of a real-life experience of how science experiments actually go,” claimed group member Lucy Johnson (‘19), commenting that although some experiments may lead to dead ends, as student-scientists, they focus on designing new methods for approaching longstanding problems. Kapadia concurred that the experiment felt “real world,” and it was evident that the group appreciated the practical learning experience associated with independent science research.

Other groups in Marr’s class are researching ecologically friendly bee repellant sprays, desalinization filters, and aquaponic systems.

Featured image credit: Brenton Hayward.

About the author

Parker Conquest is a senior at Collegiate School.