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define: syn•er•gy

at play

the increased effectiveness that results when two or more people or businesses work together

alyssa amick & trisha jani

Aquila managing editor & news editor


ndrew Jin (11) and Steven Wang (11) remember toiling by the light of their laptops as they pulled an all-nighter to complete their research paper. Months later, they received $40,000 and went down in Harker history as national Siemens finalists. Andrew and Steven conducted their research over the course of last summer. They were particularly interested in research cancer because it “is probably the main medical problem of the century,” according to Steven. Steven began his summer doing an internship at the City of Hope, a cancer research center in Duarte, California. He was the youngest of the researchers there working with undergraduate, graduate, PhD students, and various professors. “I guess it was intimidating at first, but I guess you just get used to that,” he said. “There were a lot of bonding activities that we did, like we went and watched a movie together as a lab.” On the other hand, Andrew worked mostly at home developing a computer program that could predict the results that Steven was testing for in the lab. The two researched possible drug combinations to combat cancer. “In our research, we tried to predict drug pairs [to treat cancer], and then we tested the predictions in the wet lab,” Andrew said. “I predicted six drug pairs with my computational analysis, and when Steven tested them, five of them were synergistic, meaning they were effective when combined together. Three of these drugs pairs were novel, they had never been discovered before.” Andrew and Steven plan to continue working on their project until April in preparation for upcoming science fairs. Although they are not yet sure whether or not they will continue their research over the summer, they hope to substantiate their findings and perhaps go a new direction next summer. Both Andrew and Steven like the problem-solving aspect of science research, calling it an “exciting and fulfilling experience.” “I like the process of coming up with your own idea and implementing it from start to finish,” Andrew said. “Along the way, you face many obstacles and challenges, and you have to figure

400 hours

of computer work

600 hours of wet lab work

out innovative and creative methods to overcome those obstacles.” He recalls first conducting research with a small project in eighth grade. Likewise, Steven finds the experience of research very enriching. “You are really finding something new that potentially no one has ever found before,” he said. Andrew recommends all students interested in doing research in college to apply to science competitions to get acquainted with the field and and learn important skills, such as writing papers, giving oral presentations, and making poster boards. “I feel like the most that I gained from this experience was stepping in and getting a feel for what academia is really like,” he said. Most teams that participate in the Siemens competition work in the same lab; the project that Andrew and Steven worked on, however, had two distinct parts. Steven did the biological portion at a lab in the City of Hope, while Andrew did the computational portion at home. The boys started their project in June and worked for 10 weeks over the summer. Both agreed that writing their research paper was a very valuable experience because it developed a skill they believe is applicable to the real world, especially because they are considering entering the science fields. “It was a very long process in a short amount of time. The day before we submitted it, we had to pull an all nighter to finish it,” Steven said. “So it is definitely very rewarding, but it was a lot of work.” Andrew and Steven attended the regional finals at the California Institute of Technology on Nov. 16 and were one of six teams presenting their research. “The Q&A was the most daunting part,” Steven said. “The judges know all about your project and are professionals in the field, so you can’t really get away by making stuff up on the spot. You really have to know your project well.” They were surprised and honored to compete in the national finals in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10, where they won a $40,000 scholarship.

100 hours to write the paper

75 papers read and referenced


Project Breakdown Screen for potential drug pairs using


connectivity maps



result: 6 predictions

2 3

Test effect of drug pairs on mouse breast cancer cells human breast b cancer cells Evaluate drug synergy using



LDH viability assays


combination index

result: 4 synergistic pairs

20+ judges evaluated project



A look behind the director’s curtain Student Directed Showcase implements work of cast, crew and directors Aquila managing editor & reporter

A world full of “insecurity guards,” crazy therapists, and a defense attorney that switched sides halfway through the case greeted the audience in the annual Student Directed Showcase (SDS). Seniors Shenel Ekici, Ian Richardson, and Namrata Vakkalagadda each directed a short play performed on Jan. 10 and 11. After a semester class and many hours of rehearsal the directors plays “The Wonderful World of Dissocia,” “Beyond Therapy,” and “The Case of Alex Hansen” were ready for audience viewing. “I wanted to direct a play, because after participating as an actor in multiple plays and musicals, I thought it would be extremely interesting to learn about everything else that occurs,” Namrata said. “There is so much work that a director does that their actors don’t even know about.” Her play, “The Case of Alex Hansen” written by Alan Haehnel tells the story of a girl in a coma fighting for her life, while the main story line is inside her head as she fights a war with the voices that fill her mind. Namrata chose this play because of the message she believes it conveys.

“I believe that the most important message of my play is that everyone is loved,” she said. “Everyone has a support system they can rely on, whether they know it or not. It is made up of their family, friends, classmates, teachers, mentors, and even the person they just met. Everyone in this world has a reason for living, they just need to learn to love themselves.” Shenel chose the play “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” by Anthony Nielsen a modern take on the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland. The protagonist Lisa must travel to the world of Dissocia to find her missing hour after its absence from her life causes problems. While introducing her play, she explained that she chose this play because it portrays mental illnesses in a different light. “I think [the play] was trying to explain mental illness to those who don’t have it and can’t understand it said Zoe Woehrmann (11), who played the protagonist, Lisa. “From Lisa’s point of view, the play compares how happy she is in Dissocia versus the unhappiness she has to face in the real world caused by the illness and everyone’s reactions, prompting her to be even more unhappy.” The final play, directed by Ian, was “Beyond Therapy” by Christopher Durang. This comedy, written in 1987, features two main characters searching for

Three words you would use to describe your directing experience

hilarious memorable rewarding -Ian Richardson love, both while dealing with personal issues in humorous therapy sessions. Madi Lang-Ree (11) played the role of Prudence, the female protagonist. “Even though ‘Beyond Therapy’ is definitely a comedy, the underlying message is a really sweet one about two slightly crazy people who find love in each other despite the odds against them,” Madi said. For many underclassmen, SDS was the perfect way to begin their acting career at the Upper School. “It’s really cool how chill the whole process is, especially when we get to go to the director’s house and play games and have fun. It’s more chill than most of the other shows,” said Namitha Vellian (10), who played the younger sister of the protagonist in “The Case of Alex Hansen.” “This show is sort of the one that prepares you for bigger productions like the musical and the fall play.” The next opportunity for actors in a school performance is the Spring Musical, “The Wedding Singer.”

exhilarating frightening terrifying heart-warming fulfilling -Namrata Vakkalagadda transformative -Shenel Ekici


alyssa amick & arthi iyer

HEAD IN THE GAME The cast and crew of “The Case of Alex Hansen,” directed by Namrata Vakkalagadda (12),prepares for their performance debut on Jan. 11, 2014. Student Directed Showcase featured the work of student actors, directors, and tech crew.

10 features  
10 features