Courtesy Tony Lam
Class of 2020 graduate Tony Lam’s passion for chemistry was sparked by his curiosity and interest in the series of labs he completed during the Chemistry Honors course.
“The most special moment for me was during the titration lab where I experimented with acids and bases,” Tony said. “Watching the colors of my chemical solution change was fascinating to me. This fascination for chemistry was one of the reasons I chose a chemistry-related topic in ASI.”
Tony enjoyed his hands-on experiences in his core science classes, but wanted to take it to the next level. Despite his enthusiasm, his transition between Chemistry Honors and ASI was not intuitive due to the immense knowledge gap he had to fill.
The Chemistry Honors course is heavily textbook-based while in ASI, students are able to independently design their own experiments. Despite the additional challenge, Tony was able to adapt to the intensity of the extensive research ASI is known for.
“Accommodating the jump definitely required some self-reflection and evaluation on my part. I was well aware of how intelligent and innovative my ASI classmates were, so that provided me with some motivation to not give up,” Tony said.
In ASI, Tony was able to explore the topic of his choice, chemical synthesis, in greater depth. Through chemical synthesis, Tony was able to combine multiple chemicals to form a more complex chemical product.
He decided to research the topic of eczema, a chronic skin condition that tends to result in dry skin. Tony has had eczema since childhood and was drawn specifically to the topic due to his personal experience.
“I felt that choosing a topic that was personal to me would be a very good motivator for me to keep researching,” Tony said. “It would also allow me to find out more about the current treatments for my condition.”
Tony’s project focused on creating a chemical that will bind to and terminate the receptor that causes the itch. Due to COVID-19, however, Tony was unable to finalize his research, putting him in a similar position to his peers.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Tony saw the restriction as an opportunity to take a step back from the physical experimentation and do further literary research on his topic at home.
In the days leading up to his Zoom presentation, Tony looked forward to seeing his growth as a scientist and presenter through participating in ASI.
“It’s nerve-racking the first time we present, but after a couple of times it becomes natural,” Tony said. “So I guess I’m looking forward to giving a much better presentation than I have when I first started ASI.”
Looking back on the class, ASI allowed Tony to pursue research on a topic that interested him while being surrounded by peers with similar driven mindsets.
“ASI was a community,” Tony said. “It was just a very unique environment that enabled me to branch out and do things I’ve always wanted to try.”
Tony will be studying physics or molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. In addition to the school being closer to home, he is looking forward to the research opportunities the public research university has to offer.