Incoming Lowell sophomores, juniors and seniors will soon have the option of taking a year-long elective class administered by Stanford University’s Seung Kim Laboratory in the upcoming 2019 – 2020 school year.
The new course will offer a unique experience for students to perform hands-on lab work on fruit flies, according to Lowell AP Physics teacher Richard Shapiro, who is spearheading the new course with biology teachers Anjana Amirapu and Alena Killpack. The three teachers will receive training at Stanford University this summer to teach the class at Lowell. Two Lowell students will also be selected by Shapiro and his colleagues to attend the trainings and act as teacher assistants for the new course.
The curriculum for the class was developed by Stanford developmental biology professor Seung Kim, who has spent about 25 years performing medical and genetic research using fruit flies. According to Shapiro, the curriculum will mirror the research and experiments done at Kim’s Lab, but that the content will be adapted to meet the “interests and needs at Lowell.”
Essentially, the course will offer students an opportunity to hopefully make new discoveries about the genetic mutations of fruit flies and learn how that knowledge can be applied to create drugs that treat specific diseases or illnesses. “The core of the course is performing the research, getting data and recognizing what data is valid and valuable,” Shapiro said, “and going from there to see if you can actually discover something that no one else has discovered.”
No prior experience is needed to sign up for the course. Instead, students will be learning on the job. “[Students] gotta read stuff to learn what’s going on in the lab and then they’re able to start performing things,” Shapiro said. “So it’s learning some of the relevant language and concepts to focus them on whatever research they might do.”
As the course is currently only offered in two high schools in the United States, Shapiro is excited for it to be implemented at Lowell. “This is a different animal altogether than any other course [offerings] anywhere west of the East Coast,” Shapiro said. “There’s only two schools in the country that offer a course like this, so it is actually pure research.”