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SCI MARK VOL. 06 2017-2018



OPENING There’s something about the abstraction of complex topics that allows the human mind to extract the inherent elements of nature and place them together into something new, but more importantly, simple. From the principal, central dogma of biology, to the most perplexing anthropogenic networks, to the unfathomable limits of the Oort Cloud, the 6th edition of The Scientific Marksman attempts the impossible: exploring humankind’s entire understanding and signature on the universe, or multiverse, as we know it. With our multi-dimensional fonts and minimalistic pages, we hope that this magazine effectively presents the chaotic facade, yet intrinsically beautiful entities this world has to offer. That being said, it is our great honor to present to you the 6th edition of The Scientific Marksman.

Cal Rothkrug 18, Sahit Dendekuri ‘19


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Photo Courtesy of Paul Hermans

Paradise in Downtown Dallas Austin Zang ‘20


s I tiredly stumbled out of the Nature Club van and peered at the building in front of me, I couldn’t help but question whether I had made the right choice in spending my Saturday morning coming here. The Dallas World Aquarium doesn’t seem like much from the outside; its boxy architecture and drab colors hardly draw the eye of any potential visitors. But as we made our way through the entrance and into the first exhibit, I realized that my concerns were completely unwarranted. As we entered, our group was immediately greeted by a towering indoor jungle. This amazing exhibit ­– a reproduction of the South American Orinoco rainforest – serves a double purpose: in addition to housing the main aquarium pool, it is also an aviary, a home to hundreds of free-flying tropical birds. Vibrantly colored birds-of-paradise soared overhead as we made our way down the meandering path, listening to

the symphony of chirps, cries, and tweets that constantly pierced the air. Below us, I could only watch in awe as an enormous Antillean Manatee surfaced from the depths, causing a commotion among the smaller animals near the water. The artificial river at the ground level of the rainforest, while seemingly shallow, is actually the aforementioned main aquarium of the building, holding hundreds of Indo-Pacific fish in its 20,000 gallon tank. The rest of my time in the aquarium was no less exciting than those first few minutes. Everywhere I looked, there were exotic and unique animals abound: the ecosystems of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, British Columbia, the Bahamas, Fiji, Palau, Southern Australia, Lord Howe Island and the Solomon Islands all on display. From snakes to sharks, there was truly an incredible variety of animal life living at the DWA. And by living, I really do mean living: the Dallas World Aquarium

is not only a center for entertainment, but also for conservation. A multitude of endangered species, including the Harpy Eagle, Radiated Tortoise and Panamanian Golden Frog can be found seeking shelter in the exhibits. The DWA goes to incredible lengths to ensure the well-being and continued protection of these rare animals; their captive breeding programs, among other efforts, have played a major role in the recent comeback of many of these at-risk species. Overall, the Dallas World Aquarium is well worth a visit. Not only does it feature stunning displays of unique animals unable to be seen elsewhere, but the noble work it performs regarding wildlife conservation is worthy of our recognition. If we as a community hope to gain a reputation as supporters of global environmental health, assisting reputable, high-caliber “green” organizations such as the DWA is an excellent start.

UNDER PROTECTION The Panamanian Golden Frog is one of the many endangered species housed by the Dallas Aquarium. Currently, the amphibian is on the critically endangered section of the IUCN Red List due to a fungal infection known as chytridiomycosis.

Photo Courtesy of Dallas Aquarium

Due to collection and habitat loss, the Radiated Tortoise, originating from Southwest Madagascar, is another endangered species under the protection of the Dallas Aquarium. The tortoises can measure up to 16 inches and weigh up to 35 pounds.

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic


The Critique

ational Geographic is one of the international leaders in documentary production today. In the past few years, the organization has released documentaries covering not only the science behind current day controversies, but also different perspectives and the importance of the topic. Case in point: Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown. This documentary is, at its core, about the consequences of global warming and what humanity is doing to combat the problem. The purpose of the 2015 movie is more than that, however. The documentary serves as a political statement for science advocate Bill Nye’s campaign on climate change. Starting in 2010, with his exhibition at the Chabot Space and Science Center, Nye became an activist on the war against global warming. “Everything in the exhibit is geared to showing you that the size of the problem of climate change is big,” Nye said in an online video. “It’s a huge opportunity.”

Nye appeared on several national news broadcasts and TV shows including PBS and Fox News, as well as a documentary with National Geographic. In the documentary, Nye and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger discussed the dire effects of climate change in five parts based on the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The format is easy to follow, taking the audience on an emotional journey in order to convince them that the people have to do something about the growing problem. However, the documentary argues for something more than it explains. At times, Nye seems to be insulting the audience for being ignorant, which isn’t necessarily

James Shiao ‘20 justified in the context of the movie. Towards the end of Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown, Nye presents the audience with evidence that there are hopeful solutions in the works to decrease the carbon emission rates. Overall, the movie is interesting and well-researched for a documentary. It was well-paced, but the humor seemed a bit out of place. I understand that director Christopher Cassel needs to keep the audience engaged, but for a movie so serious, the humor should be toned down. As National Geographic continue to create documentaries for all subjects, I am excited for the new ones to come.


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‘There was no lightning bolt moment, but a lot of breakthroughs over time fielded from many companies, tons of pieces of advice, and a lot of mistakes.’ —Adam Rawot

BUILDING a STARTUP Cal Rothkrug ‘18 and Ishan Gupta ‘20

Photo Courtesy of Sergey Nivens Tech entrepeneur Adam Rawot ’13 has spent the last few years building up his company Woveon. Now, he shares some tips and tricks with his fellow Marksmen.


s STEAM jobs grow more numerous and necessary

for our daily lives, a knowledge of the business world has become crucial for many newcomers to the fields. Adam Rawot ‘13 is the founder of Woveon, a company that links all of a company’s channels together into one database. Rawot claims that the first skill he had to master, especially in a business like his, was communication. “Prove value, exceed expectations, and be courteous but direct,” Rawot says. “One thing that took me a long time to ace was the email. Being able to be polite but convey everything you need in no more than a few lines is important. Manners are great, but people, especially more senior people, generally value their time heavily too.” In the infancy of Woveon, Rawot talked to as many experts in specific fields as he could. If he came with clear questions prepared beforehand and didn’t ask for too much of their time, he noticed that people were more willing to talk over the phone or to even get coffee. “One trick I did when I started Woveon was go talk it up to people at networking events and ask them some broader questions about the space they were in,” Rawot says. “After that, I would pitch a product like it was already built and had clients and see what people said.” Rawot used his networking skills and teamed up with two mid-career professionals, one of whom was his previous boss, to devise a plan and turn his idea into a reality.

“People judge the quality of a company by its overall trend, not necessarily where it’s at in a specific moment.”

“Being able to pair with more experienced people, even if they are only advisors, gives a lot of credibility to your projects,” Rawot says. “St. Mark’s carries a ton of name weight and generally people have a much better network than they’d expect. Start meeting people and keep talking to people.” But Rawot didn’t rely too much on the people he met. Every day, he would devote time to reading about the industry, markets, emerging technologies, and anything else he could get his hands on. By staying informed, Rawot made sure he solved his company’s problems with innovative and creative solutions.

“It’s really easy to fall into patterns of imposter syndrome in entrepreneurship, especially with the amount of messaging about the idea of the ‘super founder’ who can do everything,” Rawot says. “Taking in feedback from people, acknowledging gaps in your plans, and implementing what you’ve heard goes a long way.”


awot usually built a product idea around 40 percent of

the way before reaching out to people and getting feedback. He also found that some of the best feedback came from his competitors’ customers. “Look for the companies [competitors] are targeting and try and talk with them about why it solves their problems.” Rawot says. “I’d look for how they differentiate, what in their signaling made it more appealing, and investigate their sales channels.” Two of the most important factors in a business’ success are product-market fit and founder-product fit, according to Rawot. A product-market fit refers to being in a good market with a good product, whereas a founder-product fit refers to having a product that will satisfy the founders themselves. “The biggest professional hurdle is defining what product-market fit and founder-product fit mean for your industry,” Rawot says. “While product-market fit has a lot of resources available, I would argue found-

er-product fit is as equally important if not more so a component of building a company.” Nearly every entrepreneur believes he or she has a great idea that will gain traction. Nearly every entrepreneur also fails. It’s critical to know how to work a room and sell your pitch, but it’s also important to know when it’s time to move onto your next idea. “Get good at taking rejection,” Rawot says. “You’re going to have dozens of bad pitches, make a lot of bad products, and meet a lot of cynical people. The people that say yes to everything you’re doing are often, in my experience, the ones you want to avoid. “ In the creation of Woveon, Rawot has realized that nobody is too young to become an entrepreneur. For him, it doesn’t matter how much experience somebody has. Nobody is ever really ‘ready’ to start a company. “A lot of the appeal is the satisfaction of having all of your work matter, celebrating wins as they come up, and a borderline obsession with the problem you’re working on,” Rawot says. “For me, a lot of the jump was entirely mental. It mostly came down to me realizing that I was happiest when I felt like my work mattered.”

What Do You Mean? Product-Market Fit:

Not only must your market be sustainable, but you also need a product that will satisfy and thrive in that market.

Founder-Product Fit:

Founders need to have a genuine interest in their product that will motivate them to work the extra hours and put in the effort to ensure the product’s success. THE SCIENTIFIC MARKSMAN

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a HISTORY of physics as told to Mark Tao ‘19


ark Tao: Describe your first experience at St. Mark’s.

Stephen Balog: The very first time I came to St. Mark’s, I came in as a substitute teacher for Angus Scott, who was the Master Teacher in physics at the time. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and initially I was to come in and fill in for him while he was undergoing chemo. The original plan was I was going to finish out the year working with him as sort of a lab assistant because the chemo was pretty rough on him. MT: How did you transition from being a substitute teacher to a real one? SB: About three weeks into doing that, they found that the lung cancer had metastasized to his brain, so he passed away shortly after that, so I ended up finishing out the year as the physics sub, and I was blown away by the school. It really changed my whole perspective on what I was going to do with my life. MT: How did you first find out about St. Mark’s? SB: I was in graduate school [at] UTD. I was finishing up my doctorate and was trying to get into the Superconducting Super Collider, which was down in Waxahachie. I had my application in [along with] 10,000 other graduate students trying to get their first job. I was not having a lot of success in that, but I got this call out-of-the-blue from Ms. Barta, the Science Department chair at the time, saying, ‘Can you teach high school?’

I’d never tried it, but I thought I’d give it a shot, so I came, and I was blown away by how mature everybody was, the equipment, the collegiality of it. MT: What’s an important lesson that you’ve learned in all your years of teaching? SB: Whenever I say anything that [is] too technical, I have this little part of me that would pop up and say, ‘What exactly does that mean in English? Am I talking jargon or am I talking in a way in which people can learn?’ So, I have this constantly going on. I still have that running in the back of my head. MT: What’s been the hardest part of teaching physics and teaching in general? SB: I struggled with physics myself, but I’ve always loved the concept and the challenge. I’m constantly referring back to that and asking myself, ‘Am I getting across the concepts I want to get across? Am I expecting too much? Am I expecting not enough?’ So that’s been the hardest part. How do you grade an assignment? What’s a fair assessment? I tend to slip back into what I did in high school and college. MT: What do you enjoy most about teaching? SB: I think the one thing I enjoy the most is when a student has an ‘Aha!’ moment, where the pieces all suddenly click together. That makes it all worthwhile. MT: Are there certain topics that

you enjoy coming back to year after year? SB: When we get into momentum in physics, I enjoy doing that. It’s also fun to play with electricity and that kind of thing. That’s fun. In optics, when we’re playing with mirrors and lenses and making images, that’s fun. MT: What’s something you hope to carry with you when you leave St. Mark’s? SB: I hope to carry with me that willingness to try new things and learn. That’s one of the things I’ve picked up here from St. Mark’s, is that everybody here is very open to trying, and I hope I can keep up that sense of wanting to keep trying and discovering new things. MT: What’s something that you hope that you’ve brought to St. Mark’s that has positively impacted the community? SB: I hope I’ve brought some sense of wonder and fun to the physics classes. I hope that I’ve inspired and encouraged people to be interested in space either as astronomy or as rockets. And I hope that people will keep digging through some of the old physics videos just to see how some things were done. You can’t play with mercury like we could when I was a kid, or how telephones worked when you had landlines, and stuff like that. I hope that sticks. MT: Was there a specific moment in your early months here at St. Mark’s that sticks out as the moment you

decided to stay for at least another 24 years? SB: I think the moment that cemented [me staying at St. Mark’s] was at the end of the year. It was final assembly, and I had been working frantically to stay ahead of the class. I was engaged at the time, my wife and I were going to be married that July, but at the final assembly, when we went to give out the physics award, I was called up to present it, and as I got up there, the headmaster at the time said he wanted to thank me for the time I had given and stepping in, and the entire Senior Class stood up and gave me a standing ovation, and I think at that moment, I realized this is something I could keep doing. That meant a lot. Who were some of the most important people that made your coming to St. Mark’s easy?


Ms. Barta was very important. Mr. Douglas—both of them were very encouraging and supportive. Mr. Holtberg was very supportive because I came a year after he did. The Science Department is a very tight-knit group and we’re all very supportive of each other, and I think that even through its changes over time, we’ve always maintained that tightness. But Douglas, Barta and Holtberg were the really big ones who helped me be what I am today.

What are some of the most memorable moments from your time here? When the alums come back and want to spend time with me is one of those moments. When they contact me and they want to know when the physics class is going to meet to encourage the class and be willing to answer questions, those are special moments. They mean a lot. How would you define your teaching style?

I think my teaching style is very, ‘Don’t sweat the small things.’ Grasp the big stuff and the details will take care of themselves. In life, always try to take a bigger view of what’s going on so that you don’t get wrapped up in the details. But, don’t be so far removed that you’re not aware of how your actions affect others. I try to balance that.


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r. Valasek, known as Mr. V to his students, has taught science for almost thirty-three years and has specifically taught at St. Mark’s for fifteen, instructing countless students on the science of chemistry, teaching both the Advanced Placement and tenth grade courses in the subject. Mr. Valasek has experienced quite the interesting life, serving in the military prior to teaching at St. Mark’s. “I was a communications-electronics officer; I worked with a lot of classified information and a lot of classified communication systems,” Mr. Valasek says. While many of the tools and projects Mr. Valasek worked on are

Mr. Valasek believes the study of chemistry is essential to students, and specifically, he says that studying chemistry helps students learn about life. “Science is a part of life and in our technological age, it seems to be more and more important. We call chemistry the science of life… more and more we are seeing in our daily life, from diet to consumption of drugs and medicines to just chemicals used around the house, it becomes important to know what some of those are and what some of those safeguards are and just a general knowledge of chemistry,” Mr. Valasek says. Because Mr. Valasek believes chemistry is so important, he de-

help foster interest in the sciences. “I think the new building will offer a lot of new experiences, new opportunities, and we are excited about the new building. I think everybody on campus and the whole St. Mark’s community is going to discover a lot of new areas of science and deeper areas of science we have right now,” he says. In addition to the school’s new science building, Mr. Valasek believes that the culture of St. Mark’s is conducive to helping students learn. “This is a great place. This is a wonderful institution with wonderful students. Every year there are a number of exciting things that happen here. Just to generalize

Science is a part of life in our technological age, it seems to be more and more important. We call chemistry the science of life, and more and more we are seeing in our daily life, it becomes important to know a general knowledge of chemistry. –Jon Valasek

confidential, it is well known that he served in the military for twenty years and retired with the rank of Major. In fact, Mr. Valasek is one of few members of the faculty to have served in the military, and his service is to be highly celebrated Mr. Valasek has always been interested in science, and from a young age, chemistry captivated his mind. In particular, his high school chemistry course piqued his interest in the subject and drew him into the wonders of chemistry. “I had a fantastic high school chemistry teacher who allowed us to come in on Saturday mornings and do lab work, and I was fascinated with color,” Mr. Valasek says. “I tried to do a lot of things with color. He had a lot of fun with me because he showed me that it wasn’t just color in chemistry, there were a lot of reactions.”

cided to become a teacher. “I was training to be a teacher when I was going through undergraduate school. I had that passion; I’ve been always interested in science, and I thought that would be my calling to teach science,” he says. When asked about what his favorite part of teaching was, Mr. Valasek commented that it was the actual process of teaching students and helping them learn that made him so passionate about teaching chemistry to Upper School students. “Seeing students turned on to concepts presented, that they actually understand it and that they run and go with it, I think that’s exciting for all of us that teach,” Mr. Valasek says. Mr. Valasek also believes that the new science building would

it, I see boys helping others, caring for others, and supporting others. I see this every year over and over again,” Mr. Valasek says. Besides chemistry, Mr. Valasek has a passion for stained glass that he’s fostered over the past years. In fact, Mr. Valasek plans to pursue his interest in stained glass after retiring from St. Mark’s. “When I retire from St. Mark’s, I plan on rekindling my passion for stained glass.” Mr. Valasek says. “If there is any hobby I would want, it would be working with stained glass.” Mr. Valasek is retiring this year, and after finishing his fifteenth and final year of teaching at St. Mark’s, he will be missed dearly by the faculty, staff, and students of the school. Thank you for all your hard work, Mr. Valasek!


Hanging Out With...


as told to

Sahitya Senapathy ‘20


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Floating through space, the CassiniHuygens probe took 453,048 pictures of Saturn. Picture courtesy of NASA.



by Nicholas Tsao ‘20 and James Shiao ‘20


he ringed gas giant has been largely unknown territory to space explorers. Since Pioneer 11, there have only been three other probes that analyzed Saturn. Only one of those probes has orbited Saturn, and that probe has finally completed its mission. On September 15, 2017, the Cassini-Huygens artificial satellite was deorbited from Saturn and burned in the upper atmosphere, ending a nineteen-year journey of observation and discovery. The Cassini-Huygens probe was a joint project first conceived in 1982 when the European Science Foundation and the American National Academy of Sciences suggested pairing a Saturn Orbiter and Titan Probe as a possible joint mission. NASA and the European Space Agency decided to look into making the plan a reality, and in 1988, the two organizations finally decided to commence the Cassini-Huygens project. During the years of construction, the relations between NASA and the ESA strengthened, despite The United States Congress attempting to truncate the project. In addition, according to astrobiologist and writer David Grinspoon, protesters of the plutonium fuel source tried to halt the probe’s launch. “Plutonium is one of the most dangerous substances on Earth, and Cassini carried 72 pounds of plutonium oxide,” Grinspoon said. “You could theoretically kill everyone on Earth.” However, NASA never stopped the project. In 1997, the Cassini-Huygens was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida and started its trek to Saturn. During its 635-gigabyte data collection, the probe discovered six moons, took 453,048 pictures, and travelled 4.9 billion miles, according to NASA. The Huygens detachable probe landed on Saturn’s biggest moon, discovering lakes filled with hydrocarbons like methane in the moon’s northern latitudes. In 2012, the Cassini satellite observed the aftermath of the Great White Spot Storm, occurring once every thirty years. Andrew Ingersoll of California Technologies believes the storm is caused by the heavier weight of water than the atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. “The upper atmosphere is so cold and so massive that it takes 20 to 30 years for this cooling to trigger another storm,” Ingersoll said. After two extensions and completion of all of the spacecraft’s objectives, the Cassini-Huygens probe began its grand finale phase in April of 2017. The big finish was planned to be a dangerously close orbit of Saturn and Titan, to get a few more pictures of the atmosphere. The trailblazing act would be the perfect ending, according to Linda Spilker, the Cassini project scientist. “Getting this close to the rings and the planet, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a scientist like me,” she said. “We’ve wanted to do this for a long time.” The epic journey of the spacecraft is perfect to Spilker. She feels fortunate that all the scientists’ calculations and predictions have been spot on. “We’ve been so lucky that so little has gone wrong,” she said. “Like Earl Maize has said, the toast falls butter-side up with Cassini.”


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Every day, more than 115 people overdose on opioids. However, doctors have not stopped prescribing them, as more than 1/3 of adults were instructed to take them in 2015. Opioids are one of the world’s oldest drugs, predating the common era in usage. The drug was popularized in the 19th century with morphine and still shows up today in forms such as fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone.

Photo Courtesy of Donell Newkirk


Data from the CDC shows that prescription opioids continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other drug, and all the numbers are likely to underestimate the true burden given the large proportion of overdose deaths where the type of drug is not listed on the death certificate.

States Overdosing

The states in the U.S.A. with the highest percent increase in overdose deaths are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Maryland- 58.9% Florida- 56.3% Pennsylvania- 44.1% New Jersey- 42.3% Delaware- 40.0%

Texas has a 7.4% increase.

IN U.S.A., 2016:



from heroin overdose



from prescription overdose



from synthetic drug overdose

Source: CDC

'I think it’s important for people to recognize this is a medication people wil go through a lot of lengths to get, and that they need to discard of old medication appropriately.' —Dr. Barbara VanDrie, Counselor


ver 15,000 American deaths every year. Almost two million people involved. Boasting a higher mortality rate than cocaine and heroin. No, it’s not a war or disease; it’s a tiny white pill, and it’s sweeping the nation in a lethal fashion. The opioid epidemic is on a rampage throughout The United States, snatching everyone from teenage athletes to retired tax attorneys into its inescapable grasp. Prescribed by doctors to help relieve pain after a surgery or an operation, opioids are usually taken away from the user after a short time to prevent them from having to depend on the drugs to soothe the pain. Opioids are short-term drugs, both natural and synthetic, that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Many people, however, have discovered that a heavy dose of these drugs gives off a pleasure high to the brain and abuse these drugs. This can then lead to dependence on opioids. Dependence and addiction to opioids can be attributed to two large factors: opioid withdrawal and opioid tolerance. Opioid withdrawal occurs when repeated exposure to rising doses of opioids changes the brain so that it only works normally when under the influence of said opioids. This, in turn, leads to opioid tolerance which is when opioid receptors gradually become less responsive to stimulation. Therefore, a greater quantity of opioids is needed to produce similar pleasures as past experiences have yielded and for the brain to function normally due to withdrawal. This creates a negative cycle which might end in an overdose, as the user takes greater quantities of opioids with each session. An overdose is a respiratory depression, when ventilation is inadequate to perform needed gas exchange, occuring due to an extreme opioid effect on the part of the brain which regulates breathing. When the question of how so many Americans are able to get their hands on opioids is presented, Director of Counseling Barbara Van Drie ascribes the answer to people stealing it from relatives or friends. “So lots of times, people abuse it even if it hasn’t been prescribed for them,” Van Drie said.

“In particular, people take it from their grandparents because they have leftovers from when they had surgery or things like that, and so people steal it from other people.” Van Drie believes there are even worse consequences after someone who becomes dependent on opioids cannot access it any longer. “One of the phenomenons that happens after people become dependent on opioids and they can no longer access it is that they’ve built a dependency,” Van Drie said. “ They become addicted and find it through illegal means, then they commonly switch over to heroin, which is used the same for a similar result and is cheaper. So that leads to the secondary addition issue. This is basically the thing we’re seeing within our society right now, and then we don’t have any treatment for that.” The healthcare system in place is not able to handle the overwhelming opioid problem, leaving little help for those already addicted. “The healthcare isn’t necessarily setup to treat it because coverage of behavioral health and drug treatment isn’t necessarily there,” Van Drie said. “You can see what’s happening within our system right now with the dart to coverage for drug trade, which is currently being debated.” However, Van Drie thinks there is a way for the average American to help solve the crisis. “I think we, as individuals, especially the elderly, need to throw out old medication,” Van Drie said. “So I think it’s important for people to recognize this is a medication people will go through a lot of lengths to get and that they need to discard of old medication appropriately and get it out of the house and recognize that adolescents are seeking it.” Ultimately, Van Drie concludes the best way to cure to this deadly epidemic is education for users and doctors. “I think [the solution is] education,” Van Drie said. “People need to understand it’s a highly addictive drug when they go to use it. I think physicians need to carefully monitor when they prescribe it, making sure they don’t give people more than they need.”

Jack McCutchan ’20 and Christopher Wang ’20 THE SCIENTIFIC MARKSMAN

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And The Winner Is... W

hat do circadian rhythm, gravitational waves, and cryo-electron microscopy all have in common? On October 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of 2017, the Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics, and chemistry, respectively, were awarded. Consistent with the growing trend of the committee to select multiple individuals for the award, three individuals were honored in each category with the coveted prize. The Nobel Prize in Medicine was presented to US scientists Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young, for their “discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm,” according to the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine. Specifically, the trio analyzed circadian rhythm, or the internal clock present in living organisms responsible for our daily waking and sleeping, eating, and body vitals; they utilized fruit flies to determine that a gene controls

by Sahitya Senapathy '20 our biological clock. Moreover, this gene accumulated in cells at night and degraded in the morning, demonstrating that our natural physiology is linked to waking and sleeping. The results of their research explains the possible implications of sudden shifts in sleeping and waking times, such as jet lag when travelling across different time zones. The idea of circadian rhythm had been present and studied since the 18th century, but how it functioned and was

'The results of their research explains the possible implications of sudden shifts in sleeping and waking times, such as jet lag when travelling across different time zones.'

controlled remained unknown until 1984 when Hall, Rosbash, and Young successfully isolated this gene. Since then, chronobiology has greatly expanded, and many believe that studying our body’s internal clock holds the key to maximizing our health and well-being. As more research is made and further breakthroughs in circadian biology occur, these three scientist’s precise and detailed work will serve as the foundation for understanding our internal clock better. In the field of Physics, American physicists Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish, and Kip S. Thorne were awarded the Nobel Prize for their “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves,” according to the Nobel Committee for Physics. The three scientists were honored for their instrumental leadership in the observation of gravitational waves for the first time. Originally predicted by Einstein more than

one hundred years ago in his general theory of relativity, gravitational waves are the result of two black holes colliding, causing ripples in space-time. These waves are tremendously weak and thus extremely difficult to detect, but researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) were able to accurately identify the signal. Because of their immense efforts, the Nobel Committee honored these three scientists with the Nobel Prize in Physics. The massive discovery of these gravitational waves promises a great change in astrophysics, with more scientists learning and researching about these topics, setting the stage for great discoveries about the universe. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to chemists Jacques

Dubochet, Joachim Frank, and Richard Henderson for “developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution"," according to the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. Cryo-electron microscopy, a form of transmission electron microscopy, allows for viewers to see biomolecules without staining or altering them, providing a clearer and enhanced image to see. While not collaborating directly with each other, the three scientists individually furthered research on cryo-electron microscopy, improving imaging and processing. Because of each chemist’s work in advancing this important and rising technology, the Nobel committee awarded Dubochet, Frank, and Henderson with the award. The improvements

328 328PRIZES

in microscopy foretell revolutionary technological advances in biochemistry. Every year, new inventions and advances in science are made. This year’s Nobel Prize nominees and awards were not an exception; we get closer and closer yearly to solving the world’s problems. With global warming, pollution, and disease being some of the most prominent issues affecting society today, innovation is instrumental to resolve these issues. The ingenuity of scientists like those describd here displays the importance of continuing scientific study, especially in our education system. As chemists, physicists, and doctors continue to invent, they will be inspired by the work of those before them to make the world a better place.

Since 1901, more than three hundred Nobel Prizes have been awarded in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine.


Since 1901, almost six hundred Nobel Laureates have been selected in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine.

1,037,872.26 ,872.26USD

The Nobe Prize amount for 2017 for one full Nobel Prize is set at 9.0 million Swedish kronor, which is equivalent to about 1 million US Dollars.

50 50YEARS

The Nobel Committee keep the names of Nobel Laureate nominees confidential for fifty years before public release.

1901 1901DECEMBER10

The very first Nobel Prizes were awarded on December 10th, 1901, exactly five years after Alfred Nobel died, and all subsequent prizes are awarded annually on the same date.


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What’s in the water?


Ishan Gupta ‘20 ive sixth graders are playing line ball right outside the Grandparent’s Courtyard. One of them spikes the ball, winning the round. But as he starts cheering, the middle schoolers all watch the tennis ball as it splashes into the pond. The group of boys are forced to fish out the ball, hopefully before somebody catches them. But luckily, after a couple minutes, they’re able to pick the ball up and dry it off. The sixth graders move a bit further away from the pond, just to be safe, and they keep on playing. But a question looms: What’s in the pond? Life science teacher Daniel Northcut ’81 has been keeping track of the Grandparent’s Pond for years. He’s looked around and seen what’s inside, but the school’s made sure the pond stays the same over the decades. “The Grandparent’s Pond, they

kept it pretty simple because they wanted it to keep the same look, pretty much always,” Northcut said. “So really it’s just lily pads pretty much. And past that it’ll just be any other natural algae that got in. There’s been a turtle, a couple of turtles, over the years. There’s been a couple of goldfish over the years. So nothing too extraordinary.” But on the other side of campus, in the McDermott-Green Science & Mathematics Quadrangle, there’s the Science Courtyard Pond. The administration has given the science department full control over what goes in and out of that pond, and Northcut uses it to its highest potential. “I’ve put in native plants, native aquatic plants, from North Texas over the years,” Northcut said. “So it’s got great biodiversity in there.” Along with the microscopic natural algae, Northcut has found bigger and more interesting species in the pond. Designed by retired science teacher Arthur Douglas, the Science

Courtyard pond has a plethora of biodiversity, ranging from different types of weeds to different types of fish and turtles. “Single species-wise,” Northcut said, “I think the most interesting things in there right now would be the carotids, the crayfish. But in the past, I think the most interesting thing animal-wise would be that gar I put in there because that gar, he was in there for maybe three years.” If somebody happened to drop a ball into the Grandparent’s Pond, there wouldn’t be much on it besides some water and maybe a few algae. In the Science Courtyard, however, it’s a completely different story. “For the most part, whatever’s going to be coating [the ball] once they get it out, there’s going to be more variety over here between different algae and mosses,” Northcut said. “You could get a little floating plant, some duckweed. I mean, all types of stuff could end up when you pull the ball out over here.”

Images taken by Cal Rothkrug ‘18

The Grandparent’s Pond sits right outside the Great Hall. Covered in lilypads, the pond is considerably less scientifically diverse than the Science Courtyard Pond across campus.


24 25


A NEW FRONTIER Cal Rothkrug ’18


erospace manufacturers and space transport services have recently seen a transition from enjoying the benefits of privatization to becoming increasingly more public. At the forefront of these private aerospace manufacturers, SpaceX – Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – is leading many of these private aerospace technology innovations. The company was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the purpose of making commercial space travel a reality – ultimately allowing the colonization of Mars. The company has developed spacecraft like the Falcon launch, which was successfully launched on February 6, 2018. This is only one of 18 successful SpaceX launches. St. Mark’s has several alumni working for aerospace manufacturing companies. Will Ferenc ’09, is just one of these alumni immersed in the budding world of aerospace technology. After graduating from St. Mark’s in 2009, Ferenc went on to attend Harvey Mudd College, where he as deeply involved in many engineering endeavors and focused heavily on mechanical engineering and robotics. While earning his B.S. in engineering, Ferenc worked as part of a team to develop a testbed and control system for underwater swarm robots. In May of 2012, Ferenc went on to become a Dynamics Intern at SpaceX. Engineering dynamics is a branch of mechanical engineering that has to do with the kinematics of mechanical systems, which is especially important when attempting to understand the motion of a rocket. After his 4 month internship at SpaceX, Ferenc became a student researcher at the Lab for Autonomous and Intelligent Robotics (LAIR) at Harvey Mudd for a year. Directed by Dr. Christopher Clark, research at the LAIR focuses on multi-robot systems and their relevant applications – from motion planning and localization to the mapping and integration of social systems. In June of 2013, Ferenc returned to SpaceX and joined a team of ins-

trumentation engineers, colloquially referred to as C&I engineers. These instrumentation engineers are responsible for developing, installing, and managing equipment that is used to monitor and control engineering systems, machinery, and processes. These engineers also configure instrumentations to set up systems that perform certain functions. After over two years, Ferenc went on to become a Sensors Development Engineer at SpaceX in October of 2015. A year later, Ferenc became the Lead Sensors Development Engineer – a position he currently holds. According to SpaceX, the Sensors Development Team manufactures high performance electronic and optical sensors for the world’s most advanced launch vehicles and spacecraft. From designing devices such as digital transducers that convert energy or signals to different forms, to laser range finders that use concentrated beams of radiation to calculate interstellar positioning, these projects can transition from being single unit prototypes to

“The simple act of being prepared and being ready is so important. It may seem like second nature to you all here, but in the world it really does matter.”

-Will Ferenc

becoming commercially manufactured objects that are produced at a rate of thousands of units annually. Ferenc is part of the vanguard that is currently innovating the field of space travel. Whether it’s NASA’s Orion Rocket or SpaceX’s most recent Falcon launch, these rockets are pioneering space travel – and alumni like Will Ferenc, bolstered by their science-steeped St. Mark’s educations, are leading the charge.

SpaceX’s Dragon was built to be the world’s first commercial spacecraft that could deliver cargo and people to the International Space Station and to bring them back safely. SpaceX projects that the Dragon will carry a person from Earth into orbit and back to Earth in 2018.

(Left) SpaceX’s current version of the Falcon 9 is designed to transport cargo weighing up to 50,000 lbs to and from low-earth orbit, while allowing several of its components to be reused after launches and landings.

Merlin engines have a remarkable ability to burn liquid oxygen and kerosene, generating the highest recorded thrust-to-weight ratio of all time, making the engines the most efficient ever built, and vital components of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Photos courtesy of Pexels Images


26 27

Hardware Update Sahitya Senapathy ‘20


017 was a monumental year in the world of technology, with companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung releasing cutting-edge innovations like face recognition and voice-activated assistants. From refining old products to developing completely new technologies, 2017 was filled with a plethora of advanced gadgets. Here’s a look at some of the biggest releases in technology in 2017.

iPhone X: One of the most awaited and prominent releases of 2017, the iPhone X represented a major change in Apple’s iPhones. Featuring a myriad of new technologies, the iPhone X is the pinnacle of Apple’s innovation. The iPhone X was released on November 3rd, 2017, and it has become immensely popular ever since. The iPhone X was so anticipated that it sold out within minutes of pre-order. As of January 2018, the company has sold about 29 million iPhone X’s. The iPhone X boasts a host of features new to the iPhone series. Specifically, the iPhone X includes OLED screen technology, a near edge to edge display, Face ID, and wireless charging. This combination of features makes the iPhone X a formidable force in the smartphone market, and the phone remains one of the most popular phones being sold today. The iPhone also has a 5.8-inch display, the largest ever screen display an iPhone has ever had. The display of the iPhone is almost edge to edge, having only a small notch at the top of the phone for its camera system. The iPhone also includes new Apple’s iPhone X OLED screen technology, never before seen in an iPhone; the OLED technology improves color accuracy and contrast ratios. One of the most advertised features, if not the most advertised feature, of the iPhone X is its Face ID technology. By removing the home button and replacing Touch ID with Face ID, Apple has set the stage for a wave of new phones utilizing Face ID by allowing the phone’s user to authenticate his or her identity simply by looking at the phone. Another important feature of the iPhone X is its wireless charging, which is a com-

pletely new addition to the iPhone series. Once the phone is placed on an inductive charging pad, the iPhone recharges. The iPhone X represents the start of a new era for Apple. With the iPhone X, Apple showcases its uncanny ability to innovate and refine its products. The iPhone X will surely set the standard for future Apple products to come, from better and more advanced iPhones to the possibility of these new features being included in other Apple products like the iPad or the Macbook.

Galaxy S8/S8+: Samsung’s model smartphones, the Galaxy S8 and S8+, are two of the company’s greatest productions. The smartphones were released on April 21st, 2017, and they sold in very high demand. In fact, within the S8’s first month of release, Samsung sold more than 20 million units. The S8 and S8+ included many new features that were major changes from their predecessor, the Galaxy S7.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ include many new features, such as its expanded display, facial recognition, and a new virtual assistant. The Galaxy S8/S8+’s most striking feature is their display. The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch display with its glass being curved on both sides of the phone. Critics tend to agree that the phone’s display is very exquisite, as the glass and structure of the phone are very well blended.

In addition to the expansion of the phone’s display, Samsung added a facial recognition feature, although the tool remained vulnerable to circumvention. Testing proved that using a flat photo of a user unlocked the phone, proving that the feature was not secure. Samsung also introduced a new virtual assistant: Bixby. The S8 has a dedicated button for the virtual assistant located adjacent to the volume rocker. Because Bixby is Samsung’s first attempt at a virtual assistant, it is somewhat limited in its capability (compared to the virtual assistants of competing smartphones). However, the smartphone’s virtual assistant is capable of performing simple tasks such as information lookup, installing apps, and utilizing existing apps to give information.

Pixel 2/2 XL: The Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL are Google’s newest addition to its smartphone family. Succeeding the Google Pixel, the new smartphones displayed a newer and more polished attempt from Google at making a smartphone. Selling almost four million units in 2017, the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL are a promising start to Google’s venture in the smartphone business.

Google’s Pixel 2 Just entering into the uber-competitive smartphone market, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL have products like the iPhone X and the Galaxy S8/S8+ to deal with, however, Google has manufactured an extremely high-quality product to contend with the two tech giants. The primary focus of the Google Pixel 2/2 XL is their cameras. The Pixel 2 boasts one of the best cameras of any Android phone, and it received much acclaim for the excellent quality of the smartphone’s photo-taking capabilities. In fact, the quality of the Pixel 2’s camera has been compared to many cameras, further supporting the phone’s reputation for quality pictures. The smartphone also features a refined display, with the Pixel 2 having a 5 inch AMOLED panel and the Pixel 2 XL having a 6-inch P-OLED display. While not spectacular, the phones were quite well produced and were a promising sign in Google’s ability to manufacture smartphones.

Amazon Echo: One of the biggest releases of 2017 was the second generation of Amazon’s Echo. Originally released in 2014, the Amazon Echo popularized voice-activated assistants, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the devices truly took off. The second generation of the Amazon Echo provided an improved version of its predecessor and was an immensely popular product, racking up more than 20 million sales through 2017.

“Alexa, lower the temperature to 72 degrees.” The Amazon Echo’s main feature is Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant. Highly customizable and sporting a significantly lower price than the first generation of the Echo, the new Echo presents a highly desirable item for buyers. Furthermore, Alexa is quite advanced with its very broad range of services. Specifically, Alexa can set reminders, search for information online, play music from music streaming services, report the news, and connect to devices in the home like lights and thermostats. Alexa can also connect to Amazon’s streaming service, Fire TV, as well as Amazon Echo allowing one to shop for items on Amazon. The Echo is surely one of Amazon’s most innovative projects and is well worth its cost.

Google Home: The Google Home is Google’s latest venture into voice-activated assistants, similar to the Echo. The Google Home virtual assistant serves as an AI service, fetching information from the internet, researching news, configuring videos playing on devices, and controlling common appliances in the home. The services Google Home provides are Google Home extremely similar to that of Amazon Echo, and the Home’s virtual assistant itself will cite Amazon’s Alexa as its role model, if asked. While Google Home is not as advanced and refined as the Amazon Echo, it is surely a formidable competitor as well as a useful home appliance.

photos courtesy of Google THE SCIENTIFIC MARKSMAN

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38 40



Conquering the Unconquerable Sahitya Senapathy ‘20


ancer – one of the most widespread and virulent diseases in the world. In 2015 alone, cancer caused 8.8 million deaths worldwide. On average, 1 in 6 deaths globally are attributed to cancer, and every year, almost 14 million new cancer cases occur. With statistics like these, it’s no surprise that cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. In fact, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, only surpassed by heart disease. The term cancer refers to a large family of diseases, distinguished by rapid cell division, that affects any part of the body and can potentially spread to other areas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is caused by, “the interaction between a person’s genetic factors and three categories of external agents, including: physical carcinogens, … chemical carcinogens, … and biological carcinogens.” Physical carcinogens are characterized by forms of radiation, and chemical carcinogens tend to be contaminants in food or drinking water, while biological carcinogens are infections from specific bacteria or viruses. Additionally, the WHO identifies tobacco and alcohol use, lack of physical activity, and a poor diet as all contributing towards an increased risk of developing cancer. STIs, such as HPV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, can also increase the chances of developing cancer. Increasing age is also a contributing factor to an increased risk of cancer. While a variety of treatment methods for cancer exist, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy, these treatments sometimes

cause adverse side effects and are not effective. Because of this, innovations in cancer treatment and prevention are continually being made and are vital to developing better methods of successfully combating the disease. Here are some of the most recent developments in cancer research: A new method of combating cancer is being formulated at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials

Photo Courtesy of Yassen Abbas

Research in Germany: using sperm to deliver cancer drugs. Although the use of sperm to fight cancer may appear incredulous, the work of Haifeng Xu and his team of researchers displays how using sperm can be more effective than current chemotherapy methods. While traditional chemotherapy affects both cancer and normal cells, the team’s use of sperm allowed it to solely attack tumors without harming normal cells. The team

used doxorubicin hydrochloride, a common chemotherapy medication, and also outfitted the sperm with synthetic magnet harnesses to guide them towards the tumors, allowing the sperm to deliver the drug. Xu’s results are astonishing: the sperm, when released in a dish containing cervical cancer tumors, killed eightyseven percent of the cancer cells in three days. However, Xu’s innovative method is limited to use for cancers in the female reproductive tract, but it promises a possibly ingenious method to combat those cancers and even other conditions affecting the female reproductive tract in the future. Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences have developed an innovative method to use light-emitting nanoparticles to detect tiny tumors. The team is hopeful that this new method can lead to earlier cancer detection, which could contribute to more effective treatment. The team of scientists experimented their method on mice, injecting them with nanoprobes, which are microscopic optical devices. These nanoprobes would travel through the bloodstream and emit short-wave infrared light (SWIR), tracking tiny tumors. The study demonstrated that use of these nanoprobes was considerably more effective than using MRIs because they were both faster and more accurately able to detect smaller tumors. The team described these small tumors, which are often overlooked by MRI scans, as the Achilles heel of surgical management for cancer. The team also mentioned that the technology might be available within five years and could be used to detect a multitude of cancers.


Median Monthly Cost for Cancer Drugs in the US

Since the 1970’s, the median monthly cost of new cancer drugs in the United States has been exponentially increasing, reaching a median price of $10,059 in range of 2010-2014.



Data from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center










1,735,350 1,735,350CASES

According to National Cancer Institute, from 1990 to 2014, the overall cancer death rate in the United States fell by 25%.


An estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in the year 2018 alone.

• Breast, lung/bronchus, prostate, and colon/rectum cancers account for about 50% of all new cancer cases in the United States. • An estimated 266,120 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, making it the most common cancer diagnosis. • From 2011 and 2015, the incidence of 8 of the 20 most common cancers have showed significant decrease.


'Cancer can be treated very well for many people. In fact, more people than ever before lead full lives after cancer treatment.' — American Cancer Society

There is good reason to be hopeful for the emerging possibilities of using nanotechnology to combat cancer. Innovations in gene research also contribute to efforts to fight cancer. Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered an IncRNA (a long, non-coding RNA) and dubbed it THOR, standing for Testis-associated Highly-conserved Oncogenic long non-coding RNA. THOR was found in various organisms, including zebrafish, mice, and humans. The research team decided to investigate the gene because it was found in other

According to the National Cancer Institute about 38.4% of all men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.

animals than humans and therefore could have an important function in the body. The team discovered that THOR was related to certain forms of cancer and that inhibiting it could stifle massive tumor proliferation. The researchers found that if they knocked down THOR in cancer cells, cancer cell expansion slowed, and when it was eliminated from normal cells, the cells were not affected negatively. Hopefully, future drugs could target THOR to try to efficiently halt cancer growth cells. The team plans to develop a compound that binds the

IncRNA to a complementary sequence and knock it down. Everyday, we grow closer and closer to conquering cancer, with more effective methods being conjectured and experimented. All around the world, scientists and researchers are working together to find a cure for the disease. As innovations and the ever-progressing technology of today contribute to this global effort to stop cancer, we should recognize the scientists and experts who work day by day to develop better methods of treating cancer. THE SCIENTIFIC MARKSMAN

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The Nature Club, founded this year by sophomore Nick Kowalske, is joining the lineup of St. Mark’s clubs concerning the environment. So far, they have done multiple outings and generated a dedicated base of members.


t. Mark’s students live in a time of a growing

used to spend a lot of time outside. That wasn’t happen-

eco-friendly conscience, where electric-fueled cars

ing when I started teaching here, and I thought it would

and renewable energy dominates the headlines.This

be both a good way for me to get back outside, and to get

is no coincidence with the presence of the millennial generation, which is called the “Green Generation” by Nielsen,

some interested students out into nature,” he said. Dr. Flint also described a lack of ecology in the class-

an information company that reported that millennials are

room as a reason for sponsoring this club. She commented

willing to pay more for sustainable products.

how, “We actually don’t get to talk much about ecology or

These findings of eco-conscious consumerism are further backed by the Clinton Global Initiative’s study of how 76% of millenials are concerned about the environment,

natural history in biology class, so this was a good way to get to teach some of that.” Earlier this year, the club went to Hagerman National

compared to 24% of their parents’ generation. This global

Wildlife Refuge near Lake Texoma, exploring the shoreline

trend is not limited to professionals or on college campuses

and hiking. So far, the club has met on two other outings,

however, as the Nature Club and Green Club have shown

one other outdoors outing and one to the Dallas World

on St. Mark’s campus.

Aquarium. Kowalske says has seen the club’s members

The Nature Club, founded by sophomore Nick Kowalske and sponsored by Dr. Flint, is a new club that

grow more interested and involved in nature. He says the club has a small number of people, but it’s

focuses on out-of-school outings to further their member’s

seen its members become more dedicated and interested in

knowledge and awareness of nature. Kowalske says that

learning about the outdoors. The Nature Club will surely

he has had an interest in nature since he went on a series of

continue to foster students’ interest in nature and help

relaxing trips.

ensure that St.Mark’s students live up to the title of the

“I realized that spending time in wilderness is a great way to relieve stress and have fun,” he says. Thus, when a conversation about birding with Dr. Flint

“Green Generation”. Beginning in 1987, the Green Club, sponsored by Mr. Northcut, is also heavily involved in helping students

turned into the possibility of the advent of a birding club,

foster a sense of responsibility for their environment. The

Kowalske and Flint agreed it would be better if it was a

club does this with their coordination with For the Love of

club focused around all of nature. Dr. Flint, an ecologist be-

the Lake, a nonprofit organization that has held cleanups

fore a teacher of biology, thought that this could be a great

of White Rock Lake every second Saturday of the month

chance to be active outdoors and help interested students.

since 1996. The cleanups involve volunteers, armed with

“I was an ecologist before I was a teacher here, so I

trash bags and latex gloves, sweeping the roads, trails, and

Jack McCutchan’20 shoreline for recyclable material and other waste. This program has made a huge impact on White Rock Lake Park, which has been transformed from a trash-filled dangerous park as the organization says, “Together, the East Dallas community transformed what was once a neglected and sometimes dangerous park into an urban oasis. This transformation is possible because volunteers collect litter in the park!” However, not all the club’s activities are off-campus as 1

they also do the annual food waste audit in which volunteers will separate food waste from trash to present how much preventable waste we have in our community, usually lowering the food waste the lunchroom sees over the following weeks. Environmental issues seem to be making a resurgence in the headlines with President Trump’s policies going from slashing clean energy research, in a move clearly designed to help the fossil-fuel industry, to loosening regulations on toxic air pollution. Both of these clubs serve a vital purpose to concerned students who want to learn more about nature and become more eco-conscious in our community, thus preparing them to live within our “Green Generation”.



Photos from the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge 1 A cold winter morning sunrise over the lake. 2 Unamused cattle egret perched atop a branch. 3 A checkered white butterfly feeding from a purple eryngo flower. 4 A phaon crescent butterfly on the stems of a daisy plant. 2

Photo Courtesy of Jon Fischer THE SCIENTIFIC MARKSMAN

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Jack Parolisi '18 Geoffrey Orsak, father of 8th grader Peter Orsak, has made huge contributions to Highland Park ISD's STEAM programs, and he hopes to help more districts in the near future.


omeone knocked on the door and dropped a letter in the mailbox. Soon opening the letter up, Geoffrey Orsak had no clue of what this message would later do for him. “It was the first letter I ever received.” The letter was from Rice University, providing Orsak with the opportunity to attend the college based on a test he had previously taken. “When I was growing up I thought I was going to be an EMT,” says Orsak, “but one letter changed my entire career path.” Geoffrey Orsak grew up just outside of Houston, Texas. Living on the poverty line with divorced parents, Orsak didn’t originally envision going to college in his future, but after his experiences at Rice he knew what he wanted to do in life. “After being blessed with the opportunity to explore science and math at Rice, I knew I wanted to give back as a way of showing my gratitude.” As a result of his desire to give back, Orsak began working in the education sector. Orsak’s work in education continued to lead him from to opportunity to opportunity, and soon enough he was appointed as the Dean of Engineering at Southern Methodist University in 2004. However, Orsak soon changed his role in science and math education, transitioning from working with college-aged students to serving students from kindergarten all the way through high school. “I enjoyed my time at SMU, and I learned a lot of things about how students work,” states Orsak, “but I realized that getting involved in K-12 would let me build the foundations for these students earlier in their academic careers.” The desire to assist younger students through science, math, and engineering led to Orsak serving as the head of the new, cutting-edge Moody Innovation Institute. Serving across all of the Highland Park School District schools, the Moody Institute strives to incorporate STEAM (standing for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) elements in selected classes for all grade levels with the hope of soon having an influence on all classes across the district. The Innovation Institute is currently “in the second year of a five-year, $5.8 million grant from the Moody Foundation”, and the institute sponsors over 30

Highland Park ISD teachers across all disciplines, giving materials and ideas to implement in their classrooms to incorporate multiple-discipline thinking. With the inclusion of STEAM and cross- discipline learning methods being implemented for students of all ages, Orsak notes that a once-massive void in critical thinking in science is being filled.

“Not many engineers go into the education sector. The broadening of a bunch of ideas into the general concept of STEAM created the opportunity for many different educators to involve themselves without necessarily having the same background as engineers.” Once known simply as STEM, the Moody Institute has transitioned to utilizing STEAM learning, including the arts with the previous subjects. While some education leaders across the United States have viewed this change as controversial, Orsak saw this as an integral next step while working at SMU, and he wants the Moody Institute to serve as one of the revolutionary organizations to first implement this concept. “At bigger public schools, it can be hard to give all students the opportunity to take art classes due to sheer size,” states Orsak. “STEAM gives students the opportunity to utilize their creativity in a context that makes sense.”


hile the Moody Innovation Institute currently only covers the Highland Park School District, the program has been marketed as a

The Institute

"The Moody Innovation Institute grant makes it possible to accelerate these [STEAM] efforts by supporting teacher professional development, providing enhanced technology, and funding staff to facilitate the design of relevant, engaging, integrated learning opportunities that enhance the outstanding educational experience in HPISD."

template for school districts across the nation.


he next major step is to spread STEAM learning throughout the Dallas Independent School District. “While the Innovation Institute has so far only been implemented at Highland Park, the ultimate goal is to give all public schools in Dallas and eventually the country the ability to teach with a STEAM mindset.” While Orsak acknowledges that changes in teaching methods are often difficult to implement, often due to parent backlash or financial costs, he envisions that soon all schools will have the ability to innovate. “What makes STEAM so successful in giving students a backbone for the future isn’t the expensive technology, the advanced classroom spaces, or a large budget for projects. The little changes in teaching, such as the use of creativity in solving problems or the value of cross-discipline problem-solving, are what have had the biggest impact so far. As the parent of a current 8th grader, Peter, Orsak hopes that public schools soon are able to provide their students with the ability to adapt to all different types of problems. While class sizes at larger public schools may dwarf the class sizes at smaller private schools, Orsak sees STEAM providing educators with the necessary tools to turn their students into personal problem-solvers regardless of class size. “Once the basics are implemented, students have the ability to run with their skills and explore on their own. The great thing about teaching through innovation is the students have more control over their destinies, giving anyone with a knack for exploring all the possibilities in the world.” Noting the progress made so far through STEAM education in the USA and the upcoming growth, Orsak is content with the changes, and he is “simply excited to be part of the ride.” “We’ve come so far in the past few years, and I can’t help but admire the progress that’s happened.” While Orsak may view himself as a passenger on the train to teaching through innovation, he truly has been one of its conductors.


36 37

A BRIEF CONVERSATION with Perot Museum Collections Manager Karen Morton We sat down with Karen Morton after her presentations during the 2018 St. Mark’s STEM Conference to dive deep into her work as a collections manager and explore the behind-the-scenes activities going on at the popular Perot Museum.

Q & A

Jack Parolisi: What is the typical process in examining and caring for inventory objects versus objects on display? Karen Morton: We actually evaluate all of our artifacts in the same way. While we do perform checkups on objects on display more regularly than we check on our inventory, we use the same procedures on every object. With many of the Perot’s offices, including mine, still located at the old Fair Park Science Museum, it can be hard to ensure that all displayed collections are protected from pests, mold, or misbehaving kids. We work with our security team and floor staff to keep everything running smoothly. JP: Is it sustainable for a museum to rely only on donations for collections? KM: The original purpose of the Dallas Museum of Science was to document life in Texas. Over the years our focus has shifted towards capturing more aspects of our world’s history, with our curator regularly traveling to parts of Alaska and Canada to explore new discoveries. While many of our collections are on loan from private donors, including 99 percent of our mineral on display, I believe that the collections we privately own or Dallas as a city owns really make our collections unique from other museums across the country. JP: What is the typical process in examining and caring for inventory objects versus objects on display? KM: Obviously we never want to damage anything we own. To do this, we carefully monitor temperatures and humidity of all our sites. While most of our collections are stored in general rooms with regular conditions, our minerals, paper documents, and film reels all have their own private locations with custom-created environments to protect the rooms’ contents. We have an ID badge system that we use to operate both our in-house collections room and off-site warehouses. Since we have over 300,000 different items currently stored in our warehouses, I have many helpers who work with me to check on all of our items or salvage them in the case of any issues, such as flooding or earthquakes. JP: What is your personal favorite exhibit or activity in the Perot Museum, and what temporary or closed exhibit do you wish was still running at the museum? KM: My favorite exhibit currently at the Perot Museum is the ‘Life: Then & Now’ Hall. I was more involved in the creation of this hall then any other area of the museum, and I love the stories the space tells, as it focuses on dinosaurs but combines their fossils with displays of different predators and prey to showcase how the same situational relationships exists throughout time. As for closed exhibits, I always loved the Fossil Prep Laboratory that the Fair Park Museum had and its focus on guest interactivity with investigating artifacts alongside staff. While the Perot Museum initially didn’t envision putting a lab of this kind in its facilities, the exhibit is now coming back with a new twist next year, and I’m incredibly excited to visit it once it opens!

Who is Karen Morton?

Karen Morton worked at the Dallas Museum of Natural History in 1998 after graduating with a master’s degree in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. After the museum turned into the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in 2012, Morton became the Collections Manager for the museum.

Karen Morton

PEROT MUSEUM The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, located in the heart of downtown Dallas, is an interactive museum for all ages. Mixing technology, exhibits and experiments, the museum teaches children the fun of learning.

950 248 298 170



miles of cable

seats in theatre

feet tall


“The original purpose of the Dallas Museum of Science was to document life in Texas. Over the years our focus has shifted towards capturing more aspects of our world’s history, with our curator regularly traveling to parts of Alaska and Canada to explore new discoveries.” -Karen Morton

Picture courtesy of Perot Museum website


38 39

Is AI Worth it? H

umans think. Those chemical reactions occurring between the neurons in our brain comprise our every day functionality. Additionally, not only do we humans possess innate abilities to perform advanced cognitive functions, but we also have cognition, or the ability to grow mentally. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, was founded on the premise that scientists could create devices in such a way that the technology would be able simulate human cognition. As simple as that sounds, we are strangers to the unfathomable multitude of intricacies and complex reactions occurring within our crania. Recently, the world has witnessed a surge of interest in AI’s potential applications. Many investors speculate about AI’s influence on different various industries in the future. Tech thought leader, and St. Mark’s parent, Mark Cuban is one of the most ardent proponents of the AI movement. Mr. Cuban was gracious enough to grant me an interview in which he shared his time and insights on this complex topic. “They need to understand how it works. AI will impact every field by 2025,” Cuban claims. Additionally, the application of artificial neural networks to AI can prove to be a vital feature of corporate systems in the future. With applications ranging from automated trading in the investment banking industry to cancer detection in hospitals, these networks have profound capabilities to independently improve performance and set precedents for future technological systems. “I think knowing how to create neural networks and apply them to different industries will be huge,” Cuban remarks.

Cal Rothkrug ‘18

Neural networks are biologically-inspired computing systems that operate the same way neurons function inside animal brains. These networks advance as functions of the data they receive, and they are programmed to record how they themselves are programmed to respond to certain data, making them more autonomous over time as well as capable of immense cognition. Of course, with the knowledge of the existence and potential applications of these areas, being able to compete with different entities on a global-scale is an essential characteristic at the corporate level. What this ultimately means is that current and future generations of Americans are responsible for developing a computer literacy proficient enough to exceed the world’s current capabilities. “Every generation controls its own destiny. You seniors will be the ones defining the future of education,” Cuban says. There still remains the question: where do we start? When becoming immersed in such a broad and practical investment, it important to establish a baseline from which business leaders and investors decide to move forward in the field. One well-known area is the self-driving automobile industry. Autonomous cars have long been a technological marvel, and major companies such as Tesla, Uber, and Google have, for the past few years, been investing large sums of money into this hopeful enterprise. “I don’t know if they will be ubiquitous for individuals, but for commercial shipping and delivery they will be. So yes, the investment is worth it,” Cuban says. However, a challenge that not only parallels but also counteracts developments in AI is the subject of malicious software. Advancements in AI be used to improve upon

011000010111001101100100011 001100110101001101001011011 110111000001100010011010010 11010100011000100110000001 1 0 0 1 1 0Mark 0 1 1Cuban 00000011100001110 101011101000110101001101001 011011110111000001100100011 $35,000


“Every generation controls its own destiny. You seniors will be ones defining the future of education. You need to understand how it works. AI will impact every field by 2025.”

$30,000 $25,000 $20,000 $15,000 $10,000 $5,000



$357.85 2016










The graph (above) represents the projected revenues from artificial intelligence for enterprise applications in the worldwide market in millions of dollars per year from 2016 to 2025. Cuban estimates that AI will be utilized in virtually every field by 2025, when the total revenue is projected to be approximately $31,238.92 (Source: Statista).

and optimize current technological functionalities, and yet they can also be used against these systems. “These networks can process more data more comprehensively than humans. If networks are programmed to be harmful, they may prove difficult to stop,” Cuban says. In the future, neural networks may prove dangerous because of their unfathomable capabilities to store and process data. For example, suppose a system is attempting to breach a network. Being able to record and adapt to any encountered obstacles during the process is a frighteningly powerful ability that is potentially threatening to critical cyber assets. A survey by PwC Global State of Information Security estimates that the world’s cyber security market is expected to reach $170 billion by 2020. According to the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report, the world’s economy lost over $450 billion to cyber attacks in 2016 alone. The subject of cyber security serves as a reminder of the need to extend advancements in AI for the purpose of protecting the very assets this technology aims to improve. Ultimately, AI is a field that continues to evolve and becomes more complicated; so with this plethora of innovation to which we look forward, we humans must keep pace with, and adapt to the technological status quo so that we may not only contribute to the world, but also secure our efforts to do so.

Who Who uses uses AI? AI? Mark Cuban and others think AI is the future, but chances are you already interacted with it. Here are a few companies that already utilize this technology.

Google Maps uses AI to calculate the fastest route using your location.

Instagram uses AI to interpret emojis and suggest emoji-hashtags. #

Amazon uses AI to create suggested products based on previous searches.


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Hard Hash Easy Ca$h Cal Rothkrug ‘18


ryptocurrencies are forming one of the fastest growing markets combining the benefits of a publicly traded currency and a decentralized exchange system. Many speculate over the feasibility of investing or mining. Find out what the system’s all about, and if it’s worth your investment.

The Buzz

Additionally, transactions are hashed into numbers by which a node in the network can identify It’s the next big thing. Don’t invest; it’s all spec- the history behind the transaction. ulation. Mining Warren Buffet calls it a “mirage,” Bill Gates calls it the “future of money,” and Peter Thiel Bitcoin mining, though the name sounds simclaims it has the “potential to do something like ple, is one of the most complex processes enchange the world.” abled by the Bitcoin currency system that allows Not only do computing technologies continthe system to be so secure. Bitcoin ue to shape and advance businesses and orgaminers don’t actually mine nizations, but they are now even changing the way people perform monetary transactions and Bitcoins, but they complete a cryptographic exchanges. proof-of-work, which Bitcoin was introduced by an anonymous earns them Bitcoins, group or person named Satoshi Nakamoto for the purpose of creating a convenient electronic almost out of thin air, peer-to-peer cash system. Bitcoin is the world’s for validating transfirst decentralized digital currency--digital mean- actions and adding new blocks to the ing that it can only be exchanged in a digital medium, unlike paper dollars, and decentralized, preexisting chain. A meaning that the system requires no third-party proof-of-work reThe source to approve or validate live transactions. quires an extremely This significantly reduces the need to disclose in- complex mathematAntMiner T9 Bitcoin formation to third parties, relying on their fidelity ical algorithm that searches for the value miner has a power efto keep your data secure. ficiency of 0.126 J/Gh of a block that yields a certain number of Spending zero-bits when the The way Bitcoin spending works is this: a client correct value of the block is hashed. However, algorithm computaeither gives or receives a payment of Bitcoins tion or “puzzle”-solving requires a tremendous from a peer; the official exchange of currency amount of computing power. creates a receipt of transaction, which is then Most Bitcoin mining is done with the use of added to a blockchain, which serves as a public Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC’s), ledger, providing all Bitcoin clients and miners computer processors more powerful than the avwith an open source history of all transactions and balances following transactions. The block- erage central processing unit (CPU) or graphics chain, in and of itself, is a chain of blocks, which processing unit (GPU). ASIC’s, such as AntMiner, are chunks of data constructed from transactions Avalon, BFL, etc., are very expensive because of the computing power they possess, which is derecorded during exchanges between clients. Clients who exchange currency with other nodes signed for solving complex mathematical puzzles in the network can see the previous transactions to complete millions of gigahashes. Additionalinvolving certain payers and payees, providing a ly, not only are these ASIC’s on average at least way for a client to detect if a person is trying to twice the price of Intel’s most advanced i7 processor, but the prices of these devices are also double-spend their Bitcoins.

increasing. When the Bitcoin currency system was first created, it took on average 10 minutes to mine the first blocks. However, with a growing demand for Bitcoins comes a growing amount of mining, often through the implementation of mining “pools” of people who combine their resources to more efficiently mine bitcoins, which they share amongst themselves. Along with the increasing amount of mining comes an exponentially increasing amount of difficulty to mine subsequent blocks. Because of this massively increasing difficulty, the price of not only ASIC’s, but powerful GPU’s are rising because of the constant demand for more computing power. As a result, today, the popularity of Bitcoin mining is starting to decrease because more people are realizing that mining, because of the massive energy and cost demands, is becoming less efficient and profitable.

stock multiplied by the price per share. A few of the cryptocurrencies with the next highest market capitalization are Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, etc. Ethereum itself is not a cryptocurrency, but a blockchain technology based platform on which the cryptocurrency, Ether, is exchanged. In fact, technology icon and Co-Founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, claims Ethereum to one day “be as influential” as Apple itself. In theory, anyone could create a cryptoSecurity currency. The only requirements are that you have a sufficient computing background to So what prevents people from double spend- the point that you can create your own blockchain teching or fraudulently using or obtaining Bitcoins? nology and that you know people in your network who The answer lies in the proof-of-work system. A agree to exchange your currency, thus building the first person attempting to complete a fradulent trans- nodes of your system. action must have their transaction added to a Additionally, the implementation of blockchain techblock that contains the history of all transactions nology to create an easily accessible public ledger holds within the blocks preceding it. promising applications for other major industries that If the person does not rewrite the history in the deal with vast quantities of data and require an immense preceding blocks, their actions are very likely be amount of security and handling, such as medical redetected by other nodes in the network, as the cords. newly formed block will also be present to the public on the ledger. The only way for the person What’s the point? to stealthily complete this action is to rewrite the history of the previous blocks by completing the Invest, don’t invest. There’s no concrete answer as to proof-of-works for all what your involveof the other blocks. ment should be in Because the vast the crypto-market. majority of nodes in Just know that the network are peomining is not a ple trying to honestly viable option if you exchange and mine don’t have the time Bitcoins, this fraduor the resources. lent person must be Cryptocurrencies able to outperform are an enigma the vast majority of these days, so if Bitcoin nodes in both you choose to get computing power involved, simply and speed. This, of experiment, as sevcourse, is barely short eral tech leaders of impossible, which do, but don’t be makes the system very brash to think you secure. can hash. Cryptocurrencies such

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

as the Ether, introduced by Ethereum, are gaining popularity as well.

Though it may be arguably the most popular cryptocurrency on the market, Bitcoin is one of hundreds of online cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin has the highest market capitalization out of all the cryptocurrencies, meaning the number of outstanding shares of

“I do think Bitcoin is the first encrypted money that has the potential to do something like ‘change the world.’”

-Peter Thiel


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EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Cal Rothkrug ‘18, Sahit Dendekuri ‘19 MANAGING EDITORS Sahitya Senapathy ‘20, Ishan Gupta ‘20 CURIOSITY EDITOR Christopher Wang ‘20 INNOVATION EDITOR Mark Tao ‘19 DISCOVERY EDITOR Jack McCutchan ‘20 COPY EDITORS Austin Zang ‘20 and Arjun Nair ‘20 HEAD OF DESIGN James Shiao ‘20 HEAD PHOTOGRAPHER Riley Sanders ‘18 STAFF Zoheb Khan ‘18, Kevin Feng ‘18, Allan Zhang ‘18, Jesse Zhong ‘18, Rohan Vemu ‘18, Varun Trivedi ‘21


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Scientific Marksman 2018  
Scientific Marksman 2018