STEM Distinction 2016 Graduates Class

Nisha Chandra always knew she wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn't until she spent time designing medical drugs with a group of scientists at New York University that she really knew what that entailed. She shared this as she and fellow seniors described their real-world academic experiences when they presented their Capstone Projects at King's inaugural STEM Colloquium. These projects are the final steps for a senior earning a STEM Distinction. Seniors participating this year included Nisha Chandra, Samantha Ehlers, Amelia Hunt, Matt Goodfellow, Will Nash, and Jonathan Richter.

During her Project, Nisha performed molecular modeling on a computer to simulate the behavior of a drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease. Using this process, she and a group of scientists worked to increase the potential impact of the drug by determining its best target within the body once injected, the first step in creating new drugs for the market. "I had no idea coding had so much to do with medicine. And there's so much left to be done," said Nisha, affirming her intent to pursue medicine. Nisha is attending Princeton University in the fall.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics have always been part of King's core academics. Their interdisciplinary nature is core to our curriculum and sets our academic process apart. US students pursuing the STEM Graduation Distinction engage in rigorous courses, intensive clubs, and project development and research, which culminate in the Capstone Projects.

"The Capstone Project creates an opportunity for students to engage in a professional-like STEM experience, whether through internships or mentoring," said Tom Castonguay, Chair of the Science Department and Director of STEM. "We want students to see the courses they study here don't just exist in separate silos. In the real world, you draw from all disciplines."

And indeed that was evident in the presentations. From computer science's impact on medical research, to the function of a 1950s carburetor, students focused their studies and emerged with a deep understanding for the synthesis between the STEM disciplines.

This year's presenters were the first at King to earn the STEM Distinction. The projects were varied and all were impressive. Hearing about the use of modern algorithms to solve biological problems and how classical Newtonian mechanics relates to velocity, the US students and Faculty attending the Colloquium all left the presentations with a deeper understanding of the marriage between science, technology, engineering and math. All of the presenters enthusiastically look forward to continuing their application of these disciplines.

"It was so satisfying to do work that can help the human race," said Will Nash, who conducted liver research with a group of scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Will is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall and adds, "Contributing to the whole scientific community by collectively sharing what we learned as we progress toward eventual solutions is incredible."