Updated: Jul 10, 2020
By the fall of 2018, we had competed in the science fair for six years and were eagerly anticipating the upcoming season. But before one can compete in the science fair, one needs to have a project.
But, the most daunting and challenging task is to find an idea that is innovative, impactful, and possible to accomplish in a few months. After a month or so of research, we stumbled across something that piqued our interest. The topic we were studying was the effects of a plant hormone, jasmonic acid, on plant growth and regulation of abiotic stresses. We won’t go into too much detail about our research here, but in short, it involved 60 days measuring 100 plants for three hours per day at our home laboratory.
It’s a terrible feeling to be unconfident in the work you have put so much time and effort into. Although we were proud of what we had done in our project, we couldn’t help but compare ourselves to the projects we had seen in previous years at the state fair. Our project was no Crispr-Cas 9 gene therapy. It was no new developmental computer program created to solve world hunger. But it was a project that we were passionate about, and one we believed could make a true impact.
Still, we craved to take our project to the next level. At our level of competition, almost all of our competitors worked in university laboratories with esteemed professors.
We were merely growing and observing plants in a makeshift lab in Audrey’s living room. So we reached out to Murrieta Genomics, a new genomic sequencing company, to analyze our plant samples in-depth, and to determine how jasmonic acid affects the plants at the genomic level through sequencing. (Wynn met one of their co-owners before at an Inland Empire Health Coalition meeting that students may attend). Because of this newly-made connection, and our persistence, we were able to travel to their lab and work alongside Brandon Young of Murrieta Genomics to learn how to successfully use our plants’ DNA to better analyze the effects of jasmonic acid. It was such a rewarding experience as we had never had hands-on experience with research equipment and learned more about molecular biology.
So what should you do if you want to gain real-world opportunities? Our advice? Don’t be afraid to reach out and continue striving for more. We always wanted to work at a university, so in October of 2019, during our junior year, we took our interests to Lacroix Lab at Western University. We acquired this opportunity by simply sending Dr. Lacroix an email, and amazingly received an offer to volunteer there shortly after. We are truly fortunate to be working with them today, and so far, it has been an utterly fantastic and enriching experience. For example, we are able to partake in experiments for Western University and even contributed to a study on the mechanosensitive ion channel GPR68. (Our science fair project on related mechanosensitive proteins did quite well this year too). But if you asked us what mechanosensitive ion channels were months ago, we would likely not be able to muster an answer – or a correct one at that. Since taking this leap in October, we can confidently say that our knowledge and work experience has grown exponentially.
Opportunities are hidden in every corner. It truly is up to you to take them. You CAN take them. And if it means anything, we believe in you.