ASI students take London

By Parisa Larson

The Advanced Science Investigations (ASI) class recently embarked on a journey to England to participate in science-related workshops and present their year-long research projects at the International Student Science Conference held at Tonbridge School. They were accompanied by four biotechnology lab technicians and science teachers Darren Dressen, Meghan Strazicich and Greg Stoehr. The ASI class’s interdisciplinary nature paralleled the trip’s itinerary, planned by EF Educational Tours, which involved activities related to STEM, history and forensics.

Courtesy Kylie Akiyama

The class’s opportunity to take the trip arose when physics teacher Dr. James Perkins from St. Paul’s School in London visited Los Altos. He came to observe the ASI class after the school invested in an electron microscope five years ago. After forming relationships with Los Altos’s science teachers, he invited them to England to observe his science classes and later invited the ASI class to present their projects at Tonbridge School.

At the conference, students were given the unique opportunity to present their personal research projects to students from Germany and England as well as hear from professors about their research. 

“Just seeing your work printed on a poster and being able to talk about it in an enthusiastic way with other equally enthusiastic individuals was a really great experience,” junior Audrey Chang said. 

ASI students formally display their research projects alongside other students from Santa Clara County at the annual Synopsys Championship science fair in March, but this trip gave them the opportunity to present their projects with less competition and more interactive discussion about their research.

“Definitely meeting and talking about your work gives you a good taste of what it would be like to enter a science career in the future because I know a lot of the researchers go to conferences to share information. This is the high school version of it,” Audrey said.

Seniors Franklin Ruan and Jiayan Luo were chosen by Dressen to present their project in front of the entire conference audience. Their research aimed to find ways to attack bacterial biofilm on medical devices to mitigate hospital-related infections. 

“I was very proud of them when they gave a talk in front of the whole crowd. The perception of the crowd was that the level at which the projects are being done was above the level of other projects in the symposium,” Dressen said. “It came through in a good way, showing, ‘Hey, anyone at this age can do this given the proper direction and materials.’”

Although the main purpose of the trip was to attend the conference, they made time to explore England as well. Students immersed themselves in the culture through walking tours of London, including Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge and the London Eye. They also visited the National Museum of Computing and participated in hands-on forensics workshops. 

Throughout the trip, precautionary measures were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One student decided not to attend due to the virus. They planned to observe Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham, but a COVID-19 case in one of the students’ families resulted in its cancellation. A school from Japan didn’t attend the conference due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Regardless, according to Dressen, the ASI students left a positive impression on those they interacted with during the trip.

“Our tour guide had been at EF for sixteen years and he said this was one of the most behaved, diverse, great collection of kids that he has ever been involved with,” Dressen said. “He was very excited and even showed up at the conference. When he talked to them about their projects, he was blown away. The kids represented themselves really well.”