Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Through their lens: High school student discovers breadth of science career paths

This summer we're sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences.

Alex Cheng, 17, attends Diamond Bar High School. He works as a Summer Trainee at the City of Hope in the Ku Lab and enjoys researching archaeology and anthropology and practicing Kung Fu.
CIRM Creativity Award high school summer interns at City of Hope
On July 3rd, the scholars of the Roberts Academy embarked on a trip to the other spectrum of science.

Mr. Jeff Levin, one of the staff at the Getty Conservation Institute, gave a talk on their project at the Mogao grottos. The topic was very interesting to me, especially since my family possessed smuggled artifacts from the caves. Working close to these ancient sites had always been a dream for me. In a recent project, the Getty teamed up with the local university to preserve the centuries-old wall paintings. The effort utilized many pieces of advanced equipment such as mobile weather stations and gas spectrometers. Now, I had the chance to see all the behind-the-scenes action, what Indiana Jones should be doing in real life. For me, this was the ultimate experience.

I was part of the first group to visit the lab. Upon entry, I was first amazed at the magnificent facilities they had, replete with multiple spectrometers and vacuum hoods. Even the pipets that I have recently become very acquainted with were present. Their labs were very much like ours at the City of Hope. We had a look at the cross sections they took to determine the different layers, which reminded me of the ice cores that researchers extract in the Arctic drill. The scientists at the Getty have also been conducting research to preserve walls with painted surfaces. It was quite interesting to see the fast-forwarded degradation of a solid block of limestone. Hopefully they can find a “cure” to this problem before “The Last Supper” in Milan withers away to nothing.

In a way, the researchers at the Getty are very much like us. At the City of Hope, we strive to save the vessels of humanity, and at the Getty, they do all they can to protect the creations of humanity. Having already been interested in the field for a while, I was certainly delighted by the experience. The trip helped me realize that science could also provide a path for me to work with the antiquities I love so much and opened up a much broader view for me. The Getty trip was certainly a great chance for us Academy scholars to witness science working in another field. They are creating newer roads onto this ever-growing highway of science on which mankind can travel into the future.

Alex Cheng

Alex submitted this video about his experience:

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