Alexandria "Ally" Bauer, a VI Form boarder from Natick, Mass., placed second at the 2020 Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair, held virtually this year.
A Taft STEM Fellow at St. Mark's, Bauer studied the impact of black sesame pigment on drosophila melanogaster with Alzheimer's disease. Among the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease are the amyloid-beta plaques that form in between the neurons and disrupt cell communication and function. Black sesame pigment, derived from black sesame seeds, has been proven to reduce the aggregation of these plaques in vitro studies. Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, are wonderful model organisms that are utilized for their quick reproduction rate, easily manipulated genome, and the relation its genome has with humans.
"For my experiment," said Bauer, "I was able to track the progression of memory loss in flies with Alzheimer's disease. I had multiple groups to show me if greater concentrations of black sesame pigment would slow the progression of memory loss in the flies. Although the results of the experiment proved my null hypothesis to be correct, I now have a greater understanding of Alzheimer's disease, the scientific method, and having control over what I learn and how I learn it."
Finishing in the top 10 percent of the more than 400 high school students with projects entered in the State Science and Engineering Fair, Bauer also received a 2020 U.S. Air Force Award and the Optical Society of America OSA) New England Chapter Award. The Air Force Award is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, a global technical enterprise with a mission to lead in scientific discovery, development, harnessing the power of scientific and technical innovation. The OSA promotes research and delivers scientific and technical information. It is a monetary award of $500.
Bauer gives credit to and is grateful for the support she found in the St. Mark's Science Department and through the Taft STEM Fellowship experience. "I am super grateful," she says, "for Ms. Lohwater, Mr. Loomer, Mr. Valitutto, and the five other STEM fellows who have mentored me, shaped my project, and problem-solved with me throughout the year."
"Ally worked diligently for the past 10 months to research, develop, and execute her project," says Lindsey Lohwater, head of the St. Mark's Science Department. "Her project required a sophisticated understanding of complex biological processes as well as patience and dedication through the experimentation process. Mr. Loomer, Mr. Valittuto and I are all very proud of Ally."
The Taft STEM Research Fellowships offer students the chance for deep exploration of their own particular area of interest, while fostering real world skills needed for high-level scientific research. Students are selected through a competitive application process, and these Fellows work with faculty mentors and outside mentors to design and conduct their own experiments and apply their research to real-world challenges.