High Schooler Profiles

Ben Snowdon

Ben Snowdon

Ben Snowdon High School Research Fellowship, Summer 2009 Senior, Falmouth High School, Falmouth, Maine

A year in school: what are your favorite courses?
My schedule is heavy in math and science, although I do have interests in other areas of study. My favorite class this year is Anatomy and Physiology because I get to learn a lot more about the life sciences although I am also taking AP Physics and Chemistry. I really enjoy learning French and social studies as well. I am an editor on my school newspaper and I participate in Science Olympiad and Math Team.

Post high school plans?
I have yet to decide on a college or university to attend, but plan on getting a Bachelors degree and going on to graduate school. I am interested in biomedical engineering although I am still leaving room for flexibility.

Why did you choose the Laboratory?
I could have done research in the Portland area but I was more interested in the lab experience MDIBL had to offer. I wanted to go away for the summer and immerse myself in an environment of people who share my passions. I looked forward to the independence of sharing a house with other high-school students. I also got to choose an area of research I was interested in.

Tell us about your research project.
I worked both in a laboratory setting doing experiments and in bioinformatics using computer software to model networks for the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD). In the lab I tested the expression of the FoxQ1b gene in zebrafish as affected by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), and even worked on finding other genes similarly affected. I used RT-PCR, QPCR, and in situ hybridization experiments. My networks were made using Cytoscape and consisted of chemical-gene relationships.

What surprised you about the Laboratory?
I was surprised about how nice and helpful everyone was at the lab. Some laboratories are solely focused on specific tasks, but MDIBL actually helps students learn and grow as scientists. The seminars given at the lab taught me a lot about different areas being researched and really connected me to other projects at the lab. MDIBL seemed like a community, even though there were many impressive scientists there and I am only a student. We had Nobel Laureate, Aaron Ciechanover, give one of the speeches and I got to sit and eat lunch with him.

During your fellowship, what did you do in your spare time?
I am big into hiking and outdoor activities which was one draw for MDIBL because of its proximity to Acadia National Park. I also took time to run. The other students and I set up a badminton net behind the Emery Cottage, and there were sports competitions organized both with other students at the lab and with the summer students at the nearby Jackson Laboratory. The Island Explorer bus makes it easy to get to town and to the other bus loops around the island, so I took full advantage of it to go to town. Bar Harbor is nice in the summer, and I spent many nights going to movies at the Criterion or Reel Pizza, or even just hanging out.

Why should a high school student consider doing a summer research experience?
You may think school teaches you what you want to know about science, but I learned a lot more about biology and life in my seven weeks at the lab than I ever expected. Working in a lab teaches you how to work with other people and is really great because it shows you what you like and what you don’t. I decided I wanted to do research to try it, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. My mentor was amazing and taught me everything I needed to know to understand high-level experiments, and I got to do things that most biochemists don’t even learn about until a few years into college. Doing hands-on science makes what might bore you in a textbook something exciting.

Ten years from now I…
I plan to be working in some field of science. Whether it’s for a business or in research this experience will serve me well. I had never thought I would want to become a doctor or researcher before this experience, and even though I don’t know exactly what I want, I would be happy either way.