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Sai Pidathala

Over the past 8 weeks as an intern in Stanford...

posted August 11, 2017

Over the past 8 weeks as an intern in Stanford, I learned a great deal about science and research. I loved learning about the amazing research that is going on, and how there are so many varying topics. I liked being able do a research poster on a topic of my choosing. It opened me up firsthand, to the process behind conducting research. I liked using tools like R, which I never would have used if it weren’t for the research project. The presentations we got from guest speakers were very enriching. I liked learning especially about Malaria and its genetic expression as genetics is one of my favorite subjects. I feel satisfied and thrilled with the number of butterfly species we collected data on because it is great contributing to future research. I can’t believe we went through over 50 books! I enjoyed camping and canoeing, both of which were things I haven’t done or don’t do very often. Being in nature is always fun for me, so the experience was amazing, even if it was sweltering hot. I really liked meeting new people and making friends over the summer. Being on Stanford’s campus every day, and exploring it through trips to art museums, the cactus gardens, and simply taking long walks through it was an awesome experience. The university setting is something I must get accustomed to as a senior this year! I really liked the vitality and atmosphere in the campus. Overall, my 2nd summer in this program was amazing, and I hope to take what I’ve learned with me to college and beyond.

More Fun and Learning

posted July 26, 2017

I have been having a good time these past few weeks, and I’ve learned a lot through field trips and in-room lectures and work alike. I enjoyed the camping trip a lot. Although it was super hot, and got through more water bottles than change of clothes, it was a lot of fun to be outside in nature. I saw 4 deer up close, rabbits, and lizards, which were super cool! The fire ants were rather intimidating though; I had to keep making sure there weren’t any crawling on my ankles. Eek! I liked walking through the campgrounds, seeing moths, and watching the stars clearly, away from the blaring city lights. The Pinnacles hike was interesting because of all the amazing rock formations along the San Andreas fault. It was tiring and sweltering hot, and I was glad when I made it to the top! We are continuing to collect data on butterflies, and going through book by book, filling row by row with thousands of unique species is quite satisfying. I had no idea there were so many different types of butterflies, with their own unique features. It is mind-boggling! I’ve also enjoyed the natural history presentations because I’m learning about animals I’ve either never heard of or ones I did not know much about. For example, my own animal of choice, the tuatara, was one I never heard of before. I really liked learning about this unique reptile which belongs in a family of its own, separate from snakes and lizards. I also didn’t know that platypuses don’t have stomachs, but have a gullet that leads straight into its intestines or that mantis shrimps have legendary punches. We’ve also begun working on our research projects. I brainstormed several ideas ranging from factors affecting evolution to genetics and physiological factors. Finally, I settled on Oxygen’s impact on body size on animals based on life modes. Though R can be a teeny bit annoying sometimes, I’m enjoying learning its code in order to organize our massive datasets and to plot scatter plots for analysis. Becoming more familiar with Stanford’s beautiful campus is always fun, as I enjoy walking through different parts of the campus during lunch everyday, and I like the Thursday activities which familiarizes me with Stanford even more. For example, visiting the cactus gardens was prickly, but nice! The presentations we get from professors and PhD students on a variety of topics, are very enriching. The presentation on technological developments in regards to forests and deforestation was quite insightful. I’m really looking forward to the canoeing trip (hopefully I do not fall in), and the other fun activities to come over the next few weeks!

It is quite exciting to be on the Stanford campus again...

posted July 5, 2017

It is quite exciting to be on the Stanford campus again. I liked the research and data collection we did last year, so it was exciting to see what organisms
we would learn about this summer. I learned a lot of new things about biodiversity and geology. The world is so vast and is dynamic with time, so it is always
interesting to pick up new concepts about paleobiology. I learned a lot about butterflies. I was extremely surprised that there are so many species and families
of butterflies. I had very little knowledge about butterflies, and always associated them with monarchs, so to learn that there are so many families and subspecies
within the species was mind-boggling. Although I hadn’t thought about butterfly evolution previously, I still would not have associated their closest relatives to
small brown moths like they are in reality. This fact helped me realize that evolution and diversification is a complex and surprising process, in which traits are
passed down or branch off through generations. Filling up rows of data on butterfly measurements and taxonomy and going through is satisfying. There are many new
things that I’ve learned about insects. One unique fact that I found interesting is how dung beetles use moonlight to guide them into rolling their dung balls in a
straight line. I also found out that butterfly wings are made of scales which help them float in water. It was interesting that their buoyant wings are what causes
poor fossil records because they don’t sink to the bottom of the ocean and become fossilized by sedimentary rocks. I learned a lot over this week and a half, and
look forward to the field trips and learning more as the summer progresses.

My Overall Experience as a Stanford Earth Youth Investigator

posted August 4, 2016

The past 7 weeks of working as a Biodiversity intern at Stanford has been full of enriching experiences. I gained new experiences, made new friends, and learned a lot about scientific processes in geology, biology, and science in general.

I enjoyed working on the research projects. It was exciting to pick and choose a topic that scientists still do not know the answers to or know much about, based on my interest. Since my interests focused on microbes, like bacteria, the research project my partner and I were able to do on the relationship between marine bacterial sizes, their genome sizes, and marine abiotic factors was enriching. I was able to mimic the process a real scientist undergoes when researching, while working on this project. I was able to understand how the scientific community approaches new ideas and questions, what methods they follow and what tools they use to implement these methods. I enjoyed using R statistical software, for the clear purpose of filtering out data, and finding relationships between body size and genome size versus several abiotic factors.

In addition, I learned about how scientists may not always get the results they originally hypothesized. Working on this research project opened my eyes to how there are several explanations for one question, or a combination of ideas working together on a problem, so it is likely that we may not get the expected results. I learned this through how their was little correlation between the factors we tested and bacterial body size,even though I believed that w=there would be a definite correlation for at least 1, originally. It was exciting to speculate different possibilities for the reasons behind our results, such as why high temperatures yielded drastically small genome sizes. The overall research experience was full of learning, and curiosity.

The many speaker sessions we have had throughout the internship were illuminating, because I understood the various paths there are in science in academia and industry. It opened my eyes to look ahead into what path I might want to take in scientific discovery, in the future. I liked the speaker session on the interplay of biology and mathematics. It was fascinating to see the way two separate subjects become interdisciplinary in biological research. I liked learning about how math is used as a tool in biology, for evolutionary predictions, phylogenies, and other aspects of biology.

The Wednesday lunches were fun-filled as well. I liked listening to the Stanford admissions counselors tips on college applications. His advice helped me figure out a little bit about what goes on in an admissions office, along with the application process. I hope to implement these tips on writing essays and the all the steps to apply to colleges.

Over the course of the internship, the field trips we went to have been very memorable. Apart from working indoors, it was very exciting to visit places outside and make scientific experiences and discoveries in nature. One of my most favorite field trips was the camping trip in Pinnacles. I enjoyed camping in the nature, cooking our own food, and playing games, while gaining exposure to changes in geologic time in the rich landscape. The hikes were quite fun and tiring, but I loved trekking up the peaks and walking around rocks that were around millions of years ago. The real-life geological diversity in Pinnacles was very fascinating. Although, the weather was sweltering hot, I made wonderful, naturesque memories as Pinnacles.

All in all, 7 weeks of working as a Stanford Earth Youth Investigator was a remarkable experience. It’s really hard to believe that the summer passed by the quickly. I really liked being exposed to lab environments by fellow lab interns, the science going on the in the farm, and the various topics that other interns from different fields researched and studied on throughout the course of the internship. Being in the Stanford campus for 7 weeks gave me exposure to college atmosphere, helped take steps toward college readiness, and allowed me to make new relationships. I look forward to sharing the knowledge I gained about Earth, evolution, Geology, and science with others. I thank my fellow interns, and supervisor, Noel Heim, for making this a fun and learning filled experience.

My Experience so far as a Stanford Youth Earth Science Investigator

posted July 20, 2016

So far in the internship, there has been a lot of learning, reading and data collection activities. My data collection partner and I really ramped up data collection activities pertaining to Nematodes size statistics. I feel that we really are getting productive and bringing our contributions to this ongoing research. Observing the live video of Nematodes under microscopes in the labs was super cool and quite intriguing. I noticed several other organisms, like maggots in different types of samples, which appeared very close up. It was fascinating to observe the locomotive patterns of the Nematodes. From a infectious disease class that I took in West Valley college this summer, I learned how Nematodes are common parasitic worms that cause diseases like Ascaris, in humans. From reading the research papers, I learned a lot about the different theories scientists have on how various life forms came into existence after the Cambrian explosion, and how different branches of science work together to explain them.

Getting to know R Software through the overview session was a good thing that happened during this period, it is really fascinating to know that such open source software tools exist for statistical computing and data visualization. Hope I will get a chance to work on this software in weeks ahead to compute or visualize the datasets. I would also make a note that I will surely take a reference of this tool with my AP Stats teacher in Prospect High to explore the possible use of R in our class.

I enjoyed the opportunities we had to go out on field trips exploring some cool marine life in Capitola beach and on the bay by Redwood city. There was a great deal of fun and enrichment on these trips. It was exciting to see the large whale skeletons. I enjoyed observing the fossilized shell beds. The rock formations changed and the shell bed patterns varied in shape based on their location. I also really liked the trip to the bay in the ship. Learning about the fascinating bay ecosystem, and experiencing the fish, and other life firsthand was amazing. As always, our Wednesday lunch socials are great opportunities to get to know more about Stanford team and also getting to know my other colleagues better.

So far, one of the most exciting experiences in the internship was the camping trip to Pinnacles. The trip was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the geology of rocks, as well as the ecosystem in the area. I enjoyed experiencing the history of the earth firsthand, through geologic hikes. I really liked learning about the various rock types in the area, and hiking to the reservoir. It was especially exciting to see lizards and a garter snake in the wild. Sleeping out in the nature felt adventurous and exciting, and I liked observing the great expanse of stars that are not so easily visible due to city lights.

The discussions we have on the book, “Biology’s First Law” are interesting because the book introduces the concept of ZFEL, which looks at evolution in a different kind of perspective.

The speaker sessions we have from people who are studying various aspects of science, are inspiring and illuminating. The topics of study range from evolutionary theories in respect to body size, and healthcare initiatives in disease stricken countries. These sessions are very informative, and provide insight into the many aspects of science that have do not have all questions answered. Additional speaker sessions, one from a geophysicist on earthquakes and the other from a biologist on the reasons behind the lack of fauna in Los Tuxtlas were quite informative and educative. I am really looking forward to upcoming sessions.

I also enjoyed beginning our research projects, collecting data, and analyzing it through R software, which is something I have not done before. The project has helped me learn how scientists in labs perform their experiments and research when they are finding solutions to unknowns. I am looking forward to learning more in the coming weeks.

My First Week as Stanford Earth Young Investigator:

posted June 28, 2016

The week was filled curiosity and excitement, starting from Tuesday June 14 the orientation day through Friday June 17. It feels the days have gone by in just few hours. There is so much to feel good, learn and contribute to the Biodiversity data collection project. Just as a soon to be High School Junior, the feeling of being on amazing Stanford campus feels quite extraordinary, exploring the campus during lunch breaks, observing a variety of students busily engaged with their academic goals. Another fascinating part in this program is, getting to know my peers from other high schools and learning their career and academic makes me intrigue and also solidifies my convictions on where and who I want to be.

Coming to the data collection activity, there is some good amount of learning this week. It was exciting to get an understanding of data collection on Nematodes. I think that Nematodes are fascinating microorganisms that are useful representations of evolutionary biology. Researching different articles, books, and abstracts on Nematode body measurements, and recording the data in spreadsheets was very enriching.

I enjoyed listening to quite enlightening sessions from,

  • Stanford’s Oceanographic scientists on microbes in oceans and listening to their experiences on their trips to Antarctica was really cool.
  • The visiting Scientist from India on a variety of native species in the Western Ghats of India and how the changing ecosystems are affecting their survival. It was an unique experience note how scientific information could be expressed in visuals and multimedia formats.
  • The Stanford PhD student working to find adaptive proteins that combat Malaria, was quite an eye-opener.

I am looking forward to weeks ahead of work, contributions, learning and fun parts associated with Wednesday lunches, Outdoor trips and investigations.

I feel honored with the opportunity to be part of this Biodiversity data collection project aimed at the deriving a meaningful relationship between the size of the living and their probable extinctions.