Students research fields of interest such as economic impact and immunology in relation to the virus, present to Medical Club and Honors Biology 

Jiaying Fu

Inspired by discussions AP Biology students were having regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, biology teacher Max Auge strove to bring real-life experiences into the classroom by assigning a project that allowed students to research information about COVID-19, analyze the effects of this virus and present this information to the community. 

“These are unprecedented times—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn along with scientists, historians and economists about COVID-19’s effect on our planet,” Auge said. “So much information is coming out around-the-clock from our experts, it’s dizzying. I wondered how we might make sense of it all…I ran this by [my students,] and they were very eager to have the opportunity to focus their energy in research to try to make sense of the constant stream of information.” 

AP Biology students were given the opportunity to choose between five different fields of interest: 1) molecular biology, 2) epidemiology, 3) immunology, 4) pathophysiology and treatment, and 5) impact on society, environment and economics. When choosing a topic, Auge urged his students to pick an area that they were passionate or curious about. 

“These are unprecedented times—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn along with scientists, historians and economists about COVID-19’s effect on our planet.”

Max Auge, biology teacher

After choosing a topic, the class split into five groups of five students to begin research on their specific fields. Senior Yash Dayal chose to research molecular biology, a topic that has always been fascinating to him.

“Understanding the complex interactions between the inner workings of COVID-19 and human cells is at the core of the problem,” Dayal said. “By understanding these complex pathways, one can begin to come up with solutions or approaches to solving the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Each of these groups were asked to come up with an outline of their research topics, which they divided among the members. Dayal, specifically, researched the proteins created by the virus. 

“The research process was definitely very interesting and insightful as it showed just how complex the virus truly is,” Dayal said. “The research process also allowed me to apply what I had learned in AP Biology in understanding the [molecular biology of] COVID-19. I also really liked the feeling of being ‘in the know’ of what COVID-19 actually does to the human body and how it causes [these effects.]”

Dayal was the team leader of the molecular biology group, an experience he believes has been very rewarding.

“One thing I really do love about being a team leader is seeing all of the pieces of the project come together to give a comprehensive overview of COVID-19,” Dayal said. “My teammates [and I] were able to create a comprehensive overview of the…molecular-biology-related fields. Managing the connection of one piece to another and seeing everything come together has definitely been the most rewarding part of being the team leader.”

Each team presented their COVID-19 findings via information sessions over Zoom. On April 29, several AP Biology students presented their research over a Medical Club Zoom Conference, and on May 12 to May 13, AP Biology students presented their research to honors biology students. These presentations were around 10-minutes-long and accompanied by a PowerPoint. 

“It’s nice that Honors Biology and AP Biology were able to have a joint class as it keeps…our big biology family [together],” freshman Harper Knight said. “It was fun to have this learning opportunity to be taken out of quarantine…[and] get a taste of what we’ll experience in AP Biology.”

The aforementioned information sessions were recorded and shared with the upper school community for education purposes.

 “The largest benefit of presenting this project to the community will be the spread of knowledge in the community,” Dayal said. “People should be armed with the knowledge necessary to at least understand the characteristics of this pandemic. Personally, whenever I get sick with something, I always try to understand what exactly is happening to my body during the process, so I can feel less scared of what is going on. After all, we are scared of things that are unknown to us. I believe the saying ‘armed with knowledge’ applies best here. The more people understand the virus, the better chance we have at finding a fix, and the less we fear COVID-19.”

Auge hopes to inspire his students to use their knowledge for the benefit of world kind.

“Our responsibility, in this case, is to package our understanding of biology and current events in a way that can inform and help others make informed decisions,” Auge said. “This global pandemic has affected all of our lives in big and small ways. I hoped to build a platform so that my students could focus their abilities, energy and curiosity into something productive.”

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