Campus & Community

Forsyth mentoring brings rewards

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Forsyth Institute volunteers see rewards of public service at student science fair

Eleven scientists from The Forsyth Institute who volunteered their time to mentor students from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) all summer saw the fruits of their work early last month (Sept. 10). That’s when the students, many of whom have won city, state, and international science fair competitions, gave formal presentations to an audience of scientists and invited guests. The Forsyth Institute is affiliated with both the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and the Medical School.

The BPS students – from Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School, Dorchester High School, Fenway High School, John D. O’Bryant High School, Madison Park High School, and Dorchester House, a BPS tutorial program – were paid stipends to conduct research in molecular genetics, developmental biology, computer science, bacteriology and immunology, and other fields. Two other students, from schools outside of Boston, worked in Forsyth labs as volunteers.

In May, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Cleveland, Gregory Warot, a senior at Boston Latin Academy (BLA), won third prize for work he did last summer at Forsyth on the effects of green tea compounds on tooth enamel. Thomas Hunyh, also a BLA senior, won an Intel International honorable mention for research, with Henry Margolis, aimed at regrowing tooth enamel. Emily Yuan, a junior Boston Latin School, won a statewide first place for her Forsyth work with Michael Levin, on memory in flatworms. Jason Hu, a junior at BLA and Marcin Rybnik, a junior at Dorchester’s John D. O’Bryant High School, had won awards before entering the Forsyth program.

However, the Forsyth program is not focused on awards. “Our goal is to expose students to science, and to offer to a diverse group opportunities that might not be available, otherwise,” said Martin Taubman, chair of the Department of Immunology at Forsyth and the program’s director. “All of the students have done well and we are very proud of them.”

The Forysth mentors included Elia Beniash of the Forsyth Department of Biomineralization; Tsute George Chen, and Fred Correia, both of the Department of Molecular Genetics; Toshihisa Kawai of the Department of Immunology; Michael Levin of the Department of Cytokine Biology; Susan Orlando of the library; Ardo Panian of the office of computer and network technology; Nikos Soukos of the Department of Periodontology; Subbiah Yoganathan of the animal laboratories; Anne Tanner of the Department of Molecular Genetics; and Taubman.

2003 Forsyth outreach program participants

Jason Hu of Brighton, a junior at Boston Latin Academy, developed a computer program to analyze codon usage frequency – a technique that, he believes, can be used in the DNA sequencing process to determine the presence of particular bacteria. Of his first summer working in a Forsyth lab, he says, “Learning what’s in the book is not the way of science. You can’t learn this in school.”

Thomas Huynh of Roslindale, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, studied crystallography of calcium phosphates, with the ultimate goal of understanding how scientists might one day regrow tooth enamel.

Marcin Rybnik of Dorchester, a junior at John D. O’Bryant High School, has been submitting his work to science fairs on such topics as plant bacteria and sickle-cell anemia since he was 13. In 2003, his first summer at Forsyth, Marcin worked with Taubman, using DNA detection methods to assess the effectiveness of certain vaccine formulations in preventing periodontal infections.

Greg Warot of Dorchester, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, studied the effects of green tea compounds on periodontal disease.

Yan (Emily) Yuan of West Roxbury, a junior at Boston Latin Academy, worked for the second summer with Michael Levin, a molecular biologist, focusing on problems of asymmetry. This year, Emily worked on the molecular mechanisms of memory.

Other EOP students include Carine Belizaire of Mattapan, a junior at Madison Park High School; Samreen Cheema of Brighton, a sophomore at Fenway High School; Mary Janvier of Dorchester, a junior at John D. O’Bryant High School; and Amanda Lovell of Dorchester, a participant in a BPS tutorial program and a senior at Mt. Saint Joseph Academy.

Two students worked as unpaid interns. They are Paul Eder-Mulhane, a junior at Milton High School, who researched the effects of ecological conditions on certain gingival bacteria with mentor, and Jonathan Fine, a 2003 graduate of the Weston High School who is now a freshman at Boston University.

Forsyth is an independent, nonprofit scientific organization focused on oral, craniofacial, and related biomedical science. It is located at 140 The Fenway, Boston.