• Charlotte Werbe

Proceedings of the IV. Polygence Symposium of Rising Scholars on June 19, 2021

Updated: Jul 9

The fourth symposium took place on Saturday June 19, 2021. We are excited to share our students’ accomplishments below.

You can watch the recording of the fourth Symposium here:

Opening Remarks, Jin Chow

Co-Founder and Director of Polygence

Hi, I'm really happy to have all of you here. Thank you so much for taking time out of your Saturday, or if you're in Hong Kong, your Sunday morning, bright and early, to join us at the Symposium. I would just like to say that connecting with students like yourselves to celebrate the really hard work that you put into your own research projects is always always the highlight of my job.

When Janos, my co founder, and I started Polygence two years ago, it was our goal to help as many high schoolers as possible blossom into the young scholars that you all are today. Watching and celebrating you today in our fourth symposium, I know, will definitely be a highlight of this month, and I think your mentors and the whole Polygence team to cannot be more proud of all of you. Academia, as Charlotte, Staci, and I, and also some of our mentors here, know all too well, is a very crazy mysterious and unnecessarily cutthroat place.But, at the heart of it all is really the democratization of knowledge and behind grant applications, behind abstract submissions, and dense journal articles, is really the simple drive and mission to share knowledge and to advance the frontiers of human knowledge. And why should that kind of work be restricted to graduate students, professors, or even universities? The space that we've carved out for you here at the Symposium of Rising Scholars and at Polygence is a miniature academic setting where you get to meet and network with other students scholars. And most importantly, a place where you get to be inspired by the work of others. This is meant to be a fun opportunity and a very safe space for you to share and to learn from each other.

At the symposium here today, we have family members friends of our scholars their mentors among other members of the wider Polygence community. And audience members if, after the presentations you're interested in connecting with our scholars or with each other, simply send us a message and we'd be happy to facilitate that connection.

So to keep things short, I'll end by saying that, as a community of nerds who all love learning, we are all incredibly excited to learn from you today, thank you and really excited to hear all your presentations.


Polygyny and the Success of the Argentine Ant

Author and Presenter: Jacob Liao

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Invasive ant species increasingly threaten ecosystems around the world and incur billions of dollars in damages each year. These ants owe a large part of their success to polygyny, a colony structure with multiple reproductives that gives the invasive ants an edge over their interspecific competition. This review paper weighs the benefits and disadvantages of polygyny in ants and explores an extreme form of polygyny called unicoloniality. It also specifically explores literature surrounding the invasive tendencies of Argentine ants and future areas of study regarding unicolonial ant species. Comprehending how invasive species find success in polygynous colonies is a key factor in their containment and deterrence.

Arts Education, NGOs, and Security

Author and Presenter: Erita Chen

Hometown: Hong Kong

This paper investigates the role of arts education NGOs in empowering underprivileged township youths in South Africa. Townships in South Africa are plagued by extreme poverty, and their schools are so underfunded and low-performing that the NGO sector is the best venue available to youth for realizing their potential. Examining the cases of two performing arts NGOs, Jazzart and Amoyo, this paper finds that arts education has the unique potential to empower impoverished and troubled youths. Among other factors, Jazzart and Amoyo achieve their missions by encouraging self-expression. The safe environment created builds trust within the students and organisations, which these NGOs leverage to teach youths life skills and improve mental health. In doing so, these NGOs don't just teach their beneficiaries how to perform dance; they teach them how to perform for life. Youth served by the NGOs are more effectively able to reject drugs, gangs, and violence, improving their self-concepts, school engagement, and future employment opportunities. Hence, it appears to be an effective means to nurture underprivileged and at-risk youths, assisting in the movement to promote continuous global security. For those dedicated to the development of future generations and reducing criminality, using the performing arts is another unique tool in the quest for a safer world.

Neuropsychiatric Manifestations of Parkinson's Disease

Author and Presenter: Neha Nabar

Hometown: Fremont, CA

Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects more than ten million people worldwide, and its prevalence is expected to continue to rise. PD is primarily known as a movement disorder, however affected adults often experience other neuropsychiatric manifestations such as hallucinations, sleep disturbances, and depression or anxiety. New research suggests that these symptoms are just as detrimental to quality of life for patients with PD. A literature review on the prevalence, risk factors, and treatment options for neuropsychiatric manifestations in PD was conducted with PubMed. This paper reviews these findings and concludes that there is a need for more research on effective management of hallucinations, sleep disturbances and depression/anxiety in PD.

The Trial of Maurice Papon

Author and Presenter: Grace Wang

Hometown: Bellevue, WA

This presentation, based on a research paper, looks at the 1997 trial of Maurice Papon, a civil servant who went on trial for his participation in the deportation of over one thousand Jews as a bureaucrat during the Vichy regime. In the fifty years in between his Vichy crime and trial, Papon was also responsible for a brutal massacre of young Algerians, protesting the ongoing crimes committed during the Algerian War of Independence against France; however, this latter crime was dropped from his trial, following a pattern of censorship and concealment of the French use of torture during the Algerian War of Independence. Using laws, newspaper archives and trial transcripts, this paper explores the complexities of facing up to and serving justice for past national or state crimes.

A Common Problem: Anxiety and Stress

Author and Presenter: Devan Melwani

Hometown: Mountain View, CA

This presentation describes a blog consisting of six posts about different aspects of Anxiety and Stress created by the student. Throughout the process, he read numerous research papers covering the topics and extracted information from them to make them more accessible to the public. He learned so much more than I could imagine: how some stress can be positive, the way stress shows up in different genders, early indicators of anxiety, neuroimaging techniques, effects of COVID, and the neurobiology of stress.

Building Predictors of Drugs Response Across a Diverse Set of Cancer Cell-Lines Utilizing Gene Expression Data

Author and Presenter: Jeff Wang

Hometown: San Marino, CA

Human genetics contribute to cancer susceptibility. The idea of being able to preview an individual’s future health regarding cancer is highly sought after. The CCLE (Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia) dataset provides genomic data - from mutations to transcriptomics - and pharmacological response data against a variety of compounds. In this study, my mentor, Sam Ng, and I, Jeff Wang, explore building models for predicting drug response. Out-of-the-box algorithms provided through python libraries can be enhanced methods by incorporating prior biological knowledge such as tumor types or gene modules/pathways (feature engineering) and/or explore alternative strategies for stratifying samples into sensitive/resistant groups. Additionally, features found to be informative for classification can be analyzed using bio-statistical frameworks to elucidate cancer biology or mechanisms of action.

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