Students continue honing hands-on research skills in Advanced Science Research

January 29, 2023 — by Natalie Chua and Sanjoli Gupta
Photo by Howard Shu
Junior Lynn Dai extracts planaria after feeding them egg yolk.
Students have received help from teachers and veterans during the Advanced Science Research (ASR) course, which Saratoga students can take at Los Gatos. 

Since last year, Los Gatos High has offered Saratoga High upperclassmen a chance to take Advanced Science Research (ASR), a sixth-period course in which students design and test their independent experiments. However, with over 40 people in the class this year, this will be the last year of ASR.

“Part of the reason ASR is discontinuing is that the teachers feel overwhelmed by the large enrollment this year, especially [ASR teacher Cathy] Messenger, who has been running the class for over a decade,” senior Howard Shu said.

Currently, there are five Saratoga students participating in ASR along with the 35 from Los Gatos: junior Lynn Dai, seniors Lisa Fung, Tanya Ghai, Jeremy Lu and Shu. The room is nearly at maximum capacity during class, and co-teacher Jennifer Lee and Messenger have to mentor about double the number of students they have compared to previous years. 

Because it is the final year of ASR, students are making the most out of the opportunity to do advanced research in a lab setting. Ghai is focusing on fat accumulation of Celegans (microorganisms); Lu is working on mind reading artificial intelligence. Fung is focusing on human mobility models to combat disaster response, and Shu is testing polymer doping on tin-based perovskite solar cells to increase efficiency. Finally, Dai is exploring the efficacy of Chinese medicine.

“Since this is the first and last year I’m taking ASR, I try to take advantage of the opportunities provided: total freedom to explore anything I want and hands-on guidance and support from my peers,” Dai said. 

At lunch on even-period days, the five either get a ride in a school van to the LGHS campus or drive there on their own.

 Because the majority of students are relatively new to ASR, some students seek help from more experienced classmates like Lu, who is in his second year of the class. For example, Fung occasionally seeks advice from Lu, as they both focus on computer science, neural networks and technical methods. With the closing of ASR, juniors and underclassmen will lose the opportunity to be part of a supportive and interactive community. Nevertheless, those who took it say they are grateful for the time they had in the class. 

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for people to get their research skills and also meet a lot of people,” Lu said. “It’s a fun environment, and everybody’s really collaborative.” 

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