Shawn Nowlin firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2021 Roanoke Valley Governor’s School (RVGS) Student Project Forum recently took place. Created 11 years ago, the RVGS event annually attracts gifted students from seven school districts across the Roanoke Valley to come together and celebrate science.
Place award winners receive certificates, ribbons and cash prizes for their accomplishments.
This year, Salem High School had ten representatives: seniors Fady Abdelmalak, Tate Berenbaum and Simran Gill; juniors Katelyn Crumpacker, Minhir Miller and Paige Netting; and sophomores Reese Radford, Ayla Lampros TJ Hinson and Thomas Joyce.
“Every student’s preparation is different. Some research and perform their experiment just in the school year. Others have been working for a full year or longer on their projects. The majority of the students perform their research at RVGS under the mentorship of the faculty,” RVGS Community Outreach Coordinator Teri Janiga said. “Some students are able to gain internships at area labs and perform their research under a mentor at the site.”
Lampros and Joyce titled their project “The Effect of Holothuroidea on the Regeneration Rate of Dugesia tigrina.” For their efforts, they placed second in the Animal Sciences category.
“We studied the effect of a sea cucumber and what impact it had with this worm called a Planarian. The little worm has a special ability where you can cut it in half, and it’ll regenerate. Our project was trying to see if sea cucumbers could also boost that regeneration,” Joyce said.
Gill considered a few ideas for her project, but she and her partner ultimately decided to do an examination of the single-cell disease using differential gene expression analysis. “My partner was interested in single-cell disease and basically what we did was find a bunch of genes in the database and we ran some comparison tests. She created a cool program, and that helped us determine which genes are differentially expressed from two groups,” she said.
RVGS winners have the option to further compete at the Western Virginia Regional Science Fair. They can also apply to compete at the Virginia Junior Academy of Science or the Virginia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Many of the judges involved are either active teachers, scientists or retired teachers.
“Our students have been working hard on their experiments for months with support from our teachers. The school needed to assemble a large group of volunteer judges to cover the various categories students compete in,” RVGS Director Mark Levy said. “Of course, there is a host of logistical issues that we needed help with, and we are fortunate to have a large number of parents who volunteered to help. Melissa Fisher, a teacher at RVGS, was instrumental in planning the event.”
What goes into a student project forum – teamwork, overcoming obstacles, perseverance – are all life lessons that will benefit these talented students as they enter the next chapters of their lives, added Janiga.