Feb 9th Research Letter

February 9th, 2020

Yo What Up Brice, 

What was the path in picking a research topic/research question like?

Getting to this point in the research cycle definitely could have been streamlined. I wish I knew my direction 6 months ago, but that is just the way it goes I guess. The first foothold into this direction was looking into the deep ocean, where light doesn’t pass. Here I was hoping to research why evolution is stalled or why species are heavily phenotypically similar to their ancestors, an example is the Coelacanth. Sadly, research in this area in high school would be a little difficult, especially for DNA analysis. In the deep ocean, bioluminescence is quite prevalent. As a result, I was adjusting to maybe do a data compilation on if there were trends or commonalities amongst why certain species exude certain colors. This would be a nightmare to do alone so I decided to maybe look into bioluminescence dinoflagellates, glowing algae. Due to this species being quite hard to come by in Germany we stumbled on Aiptasia from my expert advisor, Jason Baer, as they have a symbiosis with dinoflagellates. From there my research started. 

What limitations did you have to consider and overcome in picking/selecting a research project?

As mentioned above a lot of the limitations either had to do with accessing resources or a dearth of knowledge for certain scientific procedures. A lot of the science in the current area of biology I am looking to is starting to dive into genetics and understanding molecular processes. This is quite hard to do with the equipment we have and the lack of knowledge of the processes like PCR. As a result, I decided to look more at ecosystem and growth factors which are easier to understand from a non-molecular point of view. Hopefully, my research will allow other scientists to conduct their own research faster

What was the process of finding past literature like?  

Finding literature early on was quite a struggle. Most of the papers I found were genetics after genetics. It was like reading alphabet soup, there were acronyms and citations everywhere without much layman explanation. I thankfully was able to refine my searches by first ignoring anything that was significantly genetically based upon the first skim. Reading other’s literature reviews in the field helped guide me in what papers to choose as I would then go to papers that potentially applied to me and read those. After choosing a study I would then just sit down with my iPad and notability and go paragraph with multi-color highlighters and annotate the passage like that. After which I would synthesize what I wrote into an annotated bibliography.

How many times did you have to read a study to understand it?  Did you need help and who helped in understanding the study?

For the nongenetic studies I mostly just read them once. I was able to do this because I would take time on each sentence to understand what it meant. If I was unsure of a particular vocabulary word (happened a bit) I created added it to my Quizlet. To ensure I was understanding the mechanisms happening I would consult with my expert advisor, Jason Baer.

How many topics did you consider before narrowing down your topic?

A lot. Here’s the list: Equations for and about black holes; How do various waves interact with humans; What role should companies play in politics; How does triboluminescence work.; Mars Science; Moon Science; Nuclear energy clean and safe?; How is the value put into art and commerce; Antimatter; How valid is the argument using human behavior from 2 million years ago till now. How similar are we now; How does no life transition into life; Can you use AI or neural learning to create functions and expressions; Using singlets to provide RGB file compression; How secure are biometrics; Holistic approach to teeth care; Deep-sea time dilation/evolution; Development of vocal cords/ audible sounds; Asteroid mining; Asteroids containing life; Combining various types of life(amino acids, carbon-oxygen chains) to create a cell; Transferring sound through a solid and then reproducing it; Water Compression bridges; Black hole models with water; Reoptimization old data(for hoarding); and SVG optimization.

What made you choose this one over the other topics/projects?

These were top five choices; SVG optimization; Asteroid mining; Deep sea time dilation/evolution; How valid is the argument using human behaviour from 2 million years ago till now. How similar are we now; Mars Science; and Moon Science. I ultimately chose the deep sea topic for it might be the more realistic out of all of them and there’s still very little know about the ocean. I also have had a general curiosity for the deep sea and prehistoric species like dinosaurs. 

How did you find the gap in research?  

The gap is not huge and perhaps with more looking you can find the information. Nonetheless, the information is not condensed into a succinct paper. When reading the protocols for how to grow Aiptasia (which in and of itself was hard to find due to everyone wanting to kill it) I realized that there does not seem to be an optimal way to grow Aiptasia. The two protocols varied in their process and did not mention any mineral supplementation. If minerals can assist in the growth of colonies this could increase the speed of research of adult Aiptasia and therefore coral research.

What was it like to begin reading and understanding the methodology?

It was like patchwork. There were some common trends throughout all the papers. One was the use of μmol/m2/s. This then became part of my methodology to ensure I had the light levels recorded in some way. There were also other items that were mentioned on one paper and not the others like how to measure the health of Aiptasia. Noting how the other papers would monitor their Aiptasia would be highlighted in my notes so I would remember and could incorporate all of the different data points measured and monitored into my own methodology.

What was the most interesting part of the literature review?

How fast I could write it. To do the initial draft of the literature review probably took me a day or two to complete. I believe this is because I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write about and I just need to have enough sources and citations to make sure my information was credible and factual. AP Seminar also aided in pushing me into the correct headspace.

The most difficult part of the literature review?

Obtaining the sources was quite tedious and annoying. Especially trying to do a full annotated bibliography for each one. Once this was done I was still going back to the papers for small bits of information that at the time I didn’t realize I would use. This back and forth was probably the hardest part. Another difficult part is balancing your credibility and having the paper be readable to the layman. This is because you want to use scientific works and methods but when you do this you start to obfuscate your paper’s meaning to the common person.

What was the emotional roller coaster like?  

The uncertainty was quite annoying as for six months I was not sure what my actual research was. Then the frustration came as I could have been at the same spot six months ago and have an ample amount of time to research. But for writing the papers I wasn’t sure I was able to write it in time for JSHS and when I finally did it it was quite awesome and a sense of relief. But now it is back to “anxiety” or uncertainty mode with trying to get data in time.

What is your proudest moment?

Hopefully, it has yet to come but the obvious answer is probably finishing the submission to JSHS. This was short-lived once I realized I had to edit the paper with expert feedback and still gather the data to turn present at JSHS and turn into the college board.

What is the most frustrating moment and how did you overcome it?

The most frustrating part was not knowing what my actual research was going to be on. To combat this I was reading literature reviews to help establish a firm foundation so that when I did find the species to research on I wouldn’t have to complete through out what I just learned but could apply it to the new species. 

If you could give yourself advice or a future AP Research advice, what would it be?  Is there other advice you can give about other difficult part of the research process? 

Start soon, like now. Be on zoom mode until you realistically have a research project that can be done. The hard part is getting to that point. I think the best way to achieve this point is constantly talking to your advisor after finding potential holes in the research. Find the opportunity and the passion will follow, so don’t wait for the perfect question.

Appendix: After the letter, please Copy and Paste any and all important emails, feedback, comments, notes from expert advisers that were truly influential in creating the project. 

From Brice:

“Hey Ms. Payne! For my AP Research project this year my readings have led me into the direction of studying the interaction between Dinoflagettes and various levels of PH in their environment. From what I have read their bioluminescent process can affect by the PH and I would like to provide a througho background on this and potentially the outcome for the surrounding ecosystem. Mr. Coapstick suggest I talk to you about conducting this, especially for figuring out the logistics of obtaining dinoflagellates.”

From Mrs. Payne:

“Brice  I also have a couple of contacts in the states you might be interested in talking too. One is in the field and working on his PHd on marine life. Both Coapstick and I taught him when we were at Patch.  Do you want his contact information. He is super cool guy and I think you would hit it off right away.  Let me know and any way I can help set up your lab and get you what you need; I have some funds through the Biology Club that we can use as well.  Let me know.”

Initial Meeting Notes

From Mr. Coapstick:

“Wow, so I looked through a LOT of stores and made quite a few phone calls.  And surprisingly, the supposed Online Shop I thought was only ONLINE, is actually in Stuttgart! And I called and they have it and they would even give their pest away for free!  Plus a rock they don’t need anymore so that the Aiptasia can grow.  They might have more, they will check. Are you gentlemen free this evening?  We have to try to get there before someone cleans out the tank Here is the link:https://www.whitecorals.com/de/korallen-originalbilder/anemonen

The address is here: Whitecorals Vertriebs GmbH Siemensstr. 26 70825 Korntal-Münchingen +49(0)711-400 911-0 [email protected] 

I would still do multiple experiments because I don’t know how big their batch is, I don’t think it will reproduce fast enough for our time constraints, and we don’t know if we do the experiment right the first time.  So, I would try multiple things. Just let me know!”

From Jason Baer:

“Hey Brice, Awesome job with all of this research – these projects are well thought out and I think the results would be really cool. 

Your research questions are interesting; I particularly like experiments 1 and 2. We can think about a way to quantify zooxanthellae content in the tissues, which should give you a way to measure how the algal symbiosis changes in different conditions (aka, does it shift from dominant autotrophy (photosynthesis) to heterotrophy (munching on brine shrimp) – I think we should expect that it would). 

If it helps, the rocks in your tank are most likely composed of calcium carbonate; they use this as “Live rock” in aquarium tanks. It is actually the skeleton of dead corals, and it is also what all reef islands are made of. Further, calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is what chalk, limestone and marble are made out of; just CaCO3 squished to different densities by pressure. All made by corals! whoa. That said, there will definitely be some of the trace minerals you’re talking about on there, so worth researching. Let me know if you find anything (you may not). 

In any event, i think this is a great start and we can chat again if you want to talk through your experimental design and data.

Awesome job and good luck with the lit review!”

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