Proceedings of the II. Polygence Symposium of Rising Scholars on November 7 2020

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

Our second symposium took place on Saturday November 7, 2020. We are excited to share our students’ accomplishments below.

You can watch the recordings of the second Symposium here:


A Note from the Polygence Team

As one of the founders of Polygence, moments like these remind me of why Janos and I started this company in the first place - and why I put my PhD on hold for Polygence. It is to connect with students like yourselves, and to watch you blossom into the young scholars that you are under the guidance of a dedicated group of mentors.

Academia is a crazy, mysterious, competitive place but at the heart of it is knowledge sharing and learning. Behind grant applications, conference applications, abstract submissions is this simple drive and mission to share knowledge and to advance the frontiers of human knowledge. Why should that kind of work be restricted to graduate students and professors ? The space we have carved out for you at the Symposium of Rising Scholars is a miniature academic conference where you get to meet and network with other scholars, and most importantly, learn from the work of others. Take this opportunity and treat it as a safe space to share, to learn, and to get a taste of what academic conferences are like. At the Symposium here today we have family and friends of our scholars, their mentors, as well as presenters at our previous symposium, among other members of the wider Polygence community. Audience members, if after the presentations, you're interested in connecting with one of our scholars to further the discussion, send us a message and we'd be happy to connect you. Also we really encourage you to ask questions - just like at any conference, the Q and A sessions are where a lot of the learning happens.

All of us at Polygence and all of your mentors are beyond proud of what each and every one of you have achieved. We're very excited to learn from you today! Thank you.


Jin Chow

Co-Founder & Program Director at Polygence

November 7, 2020


Opening Remarks

Thank you all for coming today. I’m extraordinarily proud of the students who you are about to see present today at the second Symposium of Rising Scholars. The symposium today will be an hour and a half. Each student presentation will last about 10 minutes and there will be time for questions immediately after each one.

Our students tonight are presenting on work they’ve done in a variety of disciplines; you’ll hear presentations on everything from aerospace engineering to the witchcraft trials of the 17th century. The breadth of topics that these young students have chosen for themselves is impressive. You might even wonder: how did a student even come up with this project idea?

This is the question I marvel at every day at Polygence. Even though students are encouraged to study the same subjects in identical courses all over the world, their natural curiosity takes them far afield. The typical menu of classes doesn’t include 18th century fashion, the Renaissance masters, autoimmune diseases that affect their loved ones, sports analytics, or gender queerness. These are just a sampling of topics students come to us with.

The following symposium is a microcosm of the diversity of interests students have. I am so proud of Polygence for supporting these students in researching exactly what they’re interested in. I am especially grateful to all the mentors here and on the Polygence team who make this possible. And I am especially impressed with these students: their curiosity and drive to take the reins of their very own research project is a serious commitment and rigorous intellectual challenge. These presentations are a testament to what young people are capable of when they are allowed the freedom to pursue what they want.

Thank you so much for coming.

-Staci Hill, Head of Academics at Polygence


Learning from the Masters

Author and Presenter: Israel Hernandez

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Mentor: Chelsea E.


This is actually a quote derived from Leonardo da Vinci himself who also is the major topic of my project. Within my project which is a sketch-like drawing, I try to combine all the things that make Leonardo who he is, essentially reflecting who he is into this small microcosm on a page of paper. The drawing is composed like a puzzle, where just about everything has symbolism that alludes to Leonardo's studies in mechanical engineering, anatomy, astronomy, environmental science, and art! Even as you back up to get a whole view of the drawing, you start to see the bigger picture, no pun intended. You'll see how everything is connected like a microcosm and macrocosm, an ideology continuously pushed by da Vinci. Above all however, you'll see how much I've learned from da Vinci, from my mentor, from other professional artists and on a much bigger scale, you'll see how my project is also an allegory to what all the students are doing in polygence, which is learning from a master.


JAK-STAT Inhibition Therapies for Alopecia

Author and Presenter: Anandita Gaur Hometown: Sykesville, MD

Mentor: Nina H.


Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease that presents itself as hair loss in the form of bald regions usually found on the scalp. AA is caused by various factors that decrease levels of immune privilege-promoting cytokines in hair follicles, resulting in the loss of the area’s immune privilege. This results in the activation and recruitment of immune cells to the area. The immune and hair follicle cells both employ the Janus kinase (JAK)-signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) signaling pathway to initiate a positive feedback loop of inflammation and the progression of AA. FDA-approved treatments for AA have been effective for many patients, but recent developments in the knowledge of the role of JAK-STAT signaling and effectiveness of JAK inhibitors as treatments present a new range of options. Due to recent developments in biomaterials, many treatment candidates previously disregarded due to implications associated with their systemic delivery can be delivered locally in stronger doses for longer time periods. In this review, we summarize current knowledge in the field of AA and present several new JAK-STAT inhibiting treatment options and their associated bioengineering methods of delivery.


Trouble in Paradise: An Examination of Witchcraft Trials in Bermuda from 1651-1655

Author and Presenter: Matthew (Finn) Bender Home town: Glen Ellyn, IL

Mentor: Will B.


T​he Bermudan witchcraft trials of 1651-1655 epitomize the liminality of previous early modern witchcraft trials not only geographically — occurring as they did on the periphery of the English world, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean — but also in terms of their transitional status. Positioned in the very middle of the 17th century, ​they employed evidentiary standards and tropes already well known at the century’s outset, and already beginning to pass away, if desultorily, in England. The acceptance at the trials of spectral evidence anticipated the direction of witchcraft skepticism and jurisprudence at the end of the century. While the Bermudan trials share aspects with other witch trials in Colonial America and with those in England, Bermuda’s unique political climate and lack of religious homogeneity give its trials a special place in history.


How Shape Affects the Lift Generated by an Airfoil

Author and Presenter: Kobe Guo

Home town: San Jose, CA

Mentor: Leo M.


I wanted to find out how various modifications to a typical airfoil would affect how high it flies. So with the help of my mentor, I was able to build a wind tunnel from scratch and carve airfoils out of balsa wood with these four modifications: thickness, camber, steps, and symmetry. After running a few tests, I found out that many of my hypotheses were incorrect. For example, I initially thought that the thinner the airfoil, the more lift it would generate since it has less weight. But, it turned out to fly the lowest. In the end, I realised that not only does the airfoil have to be light, it also needs to be able to generate enough pressure difference in order for the airfoil to generate the maximum lift.


On Experience and its Queerness

Author and Presenter: Skye Golinghorst

Home town: Pikesville, MD

Mentor: Alexis P., George Philip L.


In this presentation, I present on how I discovered my identity as a genderqueer person through writing "on skin and its uses". I would discuss identity in storytelling, and how I used grotesque imagery to help describe what it feels like to realize you're not what you always thought you were, and that many people will not like it when you tell them. I would also do a reading of my story, as well as bringing the discussion over to my current research - transitioning from a retrospective on my identity to a retrospective on some critical queer identities that have been overlooked and forgotten.

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