Honors Bio Students Investigate Life Science Questions, With Help From the Pros

Does sugar water have an effect on ants’ learning? Are the heart rates of Daphnia magna affected by alcohol exposure? How does isolation alter the dietary habits of cockroaches? How does sound affect plant growth? Over the last couple of months, the Honors Biology students in Dr. Peter Hyde’s class were answering these ques­tions and more, with help from medical professionals and research scientists.

For the eighth year, Honors Bio students spent the winter term immersed in Inde­pendent Research Projects (IRP). Posing questions of their own scientific interest, the boys developed experiment proposals and turned to the professionals for real-time feedback, honing their approaches all the while. Even before the winter break, the students met with their IRP mentors—RL parents and alumni who are also research scientists, surgeons, hematologists, oncologists—virtually. With the feedback from those sessions, the boys refined their experimental plans, and in January and February they collected their data. The IRP mentors then met with their mentees again to discuss the data and findings, and worked with the students on developing compelling presentations. In a typical year the students’ work culminates in a science fair-style event, in which faculty, staff, and fellow students can walk around perusing project posters and asking questions of the budding scientists. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the students instead submitted videos as the culminating presentation of their hard work. You can view each of those videos here.

Other research projects included the effects of dissolved oxygen on yeast respiration and CO2 production; the effects of changing soil pH on the growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants; whether hyperoxia improves learning in fruit flies; and how the concentration of potassium ions affect the heart rate of Daphnia Magna.

Special thanks to our generous mentors, who include:

Sirisha Emani (P’17, ‘22), PhD, Department of Surgery, Boston Children’s Hospital 

Andrew Eyre ’02, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Ephraim Hochberg (P’25), MD, Departments of Oncology and Hematology, Massachusetts General Hospital

Matthew Hutter ’87 (P’21, ’23), MD, Departments of General and Gastrointestinal Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital

Julie Lin (P’24), PhD, Clinical Development, Rare Diseases and Rare Blood Disorders, Sanofi-Genzyme

Cynthia Morton (P’10), PhD, Department of Cytogenetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

David Wilkinson (P’21, ‘23, ‘25), MS, Department of Systems Engineering, Vicarious Surgical

Scot Wolfe (P’15, ’18), PhD, Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical School