By YooJin SHEEN, intern
While summer vacation for most high school students may represent sleeping for endless hours, some students have pursued other interests, achieving numerous feats. For their achievements in the field of science and technology, Crescenta Valley High School students Shaunt Mehdikhani and Kyle D’ambrosio received medals from the LA County Regional Occupation Program (LACOROP) 2013-14 Outstanding Student Recognition Program.
LACOROP awards one outstanding student from each ROP class per school each year. Mehdikhani was selected as the student to represent the EMR (emergency medical responder) class from CVHS, while D’ambrosio was selected to represent the biotechnology class from CVHS. Both classes are ROP courses offered at CVHS through the Academy of Science and Medicine, a program directed by teacher Orenda Tuason.
Once selected by LACOROP, the student then competes against others chosen from the entire county. A panel of four judges during an interview judges students as they present a work product. Mehdikhani won bronze in the category for health science and medical technology after presenting his demonstration of basic EMR techniques, creating a resume for a job in their field, and filling out a job application.
Deciding how to present during the interview was a challenge.
“Determining which method of presenting my work product would be the most effective and impressive for the interview was the biggest challenge,” Mehdikhani said. “In the end I chose to just set up scenarios and carry out the specified first aid.”
Despite the challenges he encountered, Mehdikhani’s enthusiasm was steadfast.
“I loved the program and thought that allowing students to be recognized out of their class at the county level is a great way to show the determination that students have in their fields of study,”
Despite the challenges he encountered, Mehdikhani said. “It was also really fun to meet students from other high schools who are very passionate about their interests.”
Mehdikhani plans on attending either Johns Hopkins University or UCLA after high school to study biology in the pre-med program to specialize in pediatrics.
For his presentation, D’ambrosio used the basis of biotechnology, which is to manipulate biological organisms in order to produce a desired output. His project, named “Chimera,” was his creation of a biological system to perform a desired function. He accomplished this through complex methods that earned him the gold medal in the competition.
“I accomplished my project by first harnessing a natural vector that produces toxins on its own and then transforming DNA into that vector that coded for an inducible gene for cell death,” D’ambrosio explained. “This gene is activated by a simple sugar called arabinose. However, if the production of toxins needs to be stopped for any reason, one only needs to introduce arabinose to the cells, which will activate the gene and kill the cells thus ceasing the production of toxins, rendering the weapon – that I named Chimera – inert.”
D’ambrosio was ecstatic about his achievements.
“The recognition I received both from being nominated to represent my district and then to win the gold medal made me feel extremely grateful to my teachers and guiding figures at school and at home,” he said.
“I also felt very accomplished and proud of myself and the work I had done to achieve such an accomplishment. To have a physical means of recognition for all of the hard work I have been putting into my schooling means the world to me,” he added.
D’ambrosio plans to graduate with a masters degree in biology, specifically kinesiology, and then move on to medical school to become a surgeon. He sees himself either serving his community at a local hospital or serving in military if he is accepted into the Naval Academy.