Stanford’s Weekend of Science

Over the weekend of March 14-16, Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies hosted their inaugural Science Conference. Students from all across the United States, and even some international locations, congregated in the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge on Stanford’s Campus for a passion-filled, fascinating weekend.

The night of Friday the 14th, although quieter than the other two days, gave students the chance to introduce themselves. Then, Saturday morning, the science began. After breakfast, we listened to the first keynote speaker, Nobel Laureate and Stanford Physics Professor Douglas Osheroff. He discussed how advancements in science are made. Beginning with the examples of Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and Scottish chemist James Dewar (creator of the Dewar flask), he looked at how scientists work in a community to build upon one another. The speech covered the discoveries of various Nobel Prize-winning scientists, ranging from Peter Kapitza to John Mather and George Smoot, following how revolutionary, career-making ideas often rely on contributions from the scientific community. Osheroff described five research strategies:

Science Image

1. Use the best instrumentation available to you.

2. Don’t reinvent: Borrow technology if you can.

3. Look in unexplored regions of physical landscapes.

4. Failure might be an indication to try something new.

5. Be aware of subtle unexplained behavior, don’t just dismiss it.



Osterhoff’s presentation was engaging and entertaining. He began in Chinese, saying “今天的天气好极了!” (Today’s weather is extremely good!). After catching everyone’s attention, he explained that all the photographs on his slides were original. His passion for science shone through the lecture, from the brief mention of a class he’s teaching on the Physics of Photography to his anecdote about a chemistry teacher who inspired him.

Following this, students separated into workshops similar to the ones OHSers are familiar with through Summer Session. Workshop topics included “Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery,” “Happiness and Resilience as the Interdisciplinary Science of Psychoneuroimmunology,” and “Computational Biology: How Computer Science Informs the Who’s Who of the Cell.” Stanford OHS Instructors Dr. Failor, Dr. McKale, and Ms. Tock led a workshop titled “Powering an LED with Pennies.” According to Ms. Tock, students “heard about some exciting research on self-healing batteries that is happening here at Stanford, and made their own battery out of pennies to light up an LED.” Similarly, Dr. McKale said, “bringing together Dr. Failor, Ms. Tock, and myself from the OHS and Chao Wang and Zheng Chen who are researchers in Professor Zhenan Bao’s lab who are doing research on self-healing batteries with students (including some OHS students) was both eye opening and fun. Most of us did not realize what a large part of the cost of a Tesla car is the batteries.  Making batteries with just pennies, sandpaper, salt, vinegar, water, and some sandpaper still seems too simple to possibly work but it does.” Dr. Failor explained in further detail,“ “It was exciting to hear about the work on self-healing batteries from the Bao group.  I especially appreciated that they pointed out the biomimicry aspect of their work; they’re working to imbue batteries with the self-healing properties of animals through the use of advanced polymers that hold together the fractured silicone created by repeated charging cycles“ and invites students to send her an email if they would like instructions on how to make a battery. I attended “Mapping Your Genome,” “Heart Modeling and Physiology,” and “Ge/SiGe Quantum Well Devices for Optical Interconnects.” These sessions included fascinating lectures, both about up and coming research and scientific fact. Each session was about an hour long, with one in the morning and two in the afternoon. Another student from OHS, Yanir Nulman, commented about his workshops, including the aforementioned battery workshop and “a workshop where we learned how to make android apps with an app maker; it was nice to know what resources there are out there to create apps.” He also attended, “a workshop in which we built a rocket”.

Between sessions, students ate lunch together and listened to another Keynote Speaker, Stanford Biology Professor Deborah Gordon. Professor Gordon discussed her work on collective behavior using various ant colonies. The talk compared the behavior of ants to that of neurons, cancer cells, and the Internet. She also detailed her experiments, including sending a colony to the International Space Station. Between speakers and workshops, students were given the chance to read poster projects from some of the attendees. These projects were about their recent experiments, which ranged from a UV- powered Milk Pasteurization System to “Automatic Detection of Melanoma Using a Multi-Stage Neural Network System” and “Detecting IgA and plgR in Mouse and Human Kidney Samples.” To conclude the day, four Stanford students, Eric Smalls, Jennifer Telschow, Najla Gomez Rodriguez, and Tracy Yang, gave speeches on overcoming the struggles they faced when first entering University. This inspiring talk broached topics such as race, culture shock, sexuality, and failure.

Sunday opened with a talk from Dr. Gabriel Garcia, a Professor in and Associate Dean of Stanford Medical School. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this talk, and cannot go into further detail. Following this were Student Contributed Talks. These fascinating discussions included topics such as “Synthesis of Biodegradable, Monodisperse PEG Microspheres for Controlled Protein Release,” by Gloria Castaneda, “The Physics of a Deuterium-Tritium Beam Focusing Fusion Linear Collider,” by Mayia Vranas, and “Prime Labeling of Complete Binary Trees and an Efficient Prime Labeling Algorithm for Connected Graphs,” by Joseph Chang and Jason Huang. These talks, which went for most of the morning, led into the closing session at noon.

Categories: Science & Tech


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