Proceedings of the III. Polygence Symposium of Rising Scholars on January 16, 2021

The third symposium took place on Saturday January 16, 2021. We are excited to share our students’ accomplishments below.

You can watch the recordings of the second Symposium here:

Opening Remarks, Jin Chow

Co-Founder and Director of Polygence

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, unnecessarily cut-throat place, but at the heart of it is the democratization of knowledge. Behind grant applications, abstract submissions, and dense journal articles 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, be inspired by the work of others. This is an opportunity and a safe space for you to share, to learn, and to have fun.

At the Symposium here today we have family and friends of our scholars, their mentors, among other members of the wider Polygence community. Audience members, if after the presentations, you're interested in connecting with our scholars, simply send us a message and we'd be happy to connect you.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with an anecdote. When I gave my first conference presentation at Berkeley as a graduate student two years ago, (which, I hope makes you feel extra proud because you’re presenting as a high schooler), I remember being sweaty, stressed, and I largely read off of my pre-written, jargon-filled script. Having watched you at your dress rehearsals, I have no doubt that each and everyone of you will outperform me at my first conference presentation.

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.

Analyzing Future Climatic Changes in Temperature and Precipitation for Kolkata (1950-2100) using CMIP6 data

Author and Presenter: Arihant Choudhary

Hometown: Kolkata, India

Mentor: Tristan B.

Climate change poses serious threats to India's agriculture and economy while imposing challenges such as widening the existing social inequality and causing cross-border refugee migrations. Kolkata, a megacity in India, has been singled out as one of the urban centres vulnerable to climate risks such as temperature and precipitation changes and their extremes. To better understand and quantify these changes, scientists have newly developed Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) under the updated Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6). Here, we provide multi-scenario temperature and precipitation projections for Kolkata for the period 1950-2100 based on the recently released and state-of-the-art CMIP6 climate models. We find that annual mean temperatures for Kolkata are projected to increase by 0.4-3.9℃ depending on the SSP considered. Moreover, we identify significant projected declines in cold nights (<15℃) and significant increases in heatwave days (>40℃). Meanwhile, the CMIP6 models analysed project total annual precipitation and frequency of extreme precipitation days to be roughly similar to 1960-1990 baseline conditions across all SSP scenarios considered. We also observe a clear divergence among the three SSP scenarios for all variables considered only after years 2050-2060. This work emphasizes the urgency to consider climate change risks in policy-making for agriculture and urban activity in Kolkata.

Meat versus plant-based diet: A comprehensive overview for the most effective and healthiest diet for strength-based athletes

Author and Presenter: Andrew Haroun

Hometown: Hillsborough, CA

Mentor: Omar A.

Nutrition is one of the most important factors in building muscle and enhancing athletic performance. Furthermore, as society moves towards greener and sustainable solutions such as plant based diets, the impact of such changes on the body of an athlete has not been clearly described. This review article aims to assess which diet optimizes muscle growth and athletic performance (meat based (MBD) vs plant based (PBD)). MBD is a great way to build muscle, however it is not the best as it carries many unhealthy disadvantages for the athlete. MBDs often contain harmful ingredients that increase the risk for many long term and deadly diseases. However, a PBD reduces the risk of many of these deadly diseases such as diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Furthermore, certain PBDs contain more protein per gram and protein per calorie relative to an average MBD. A PBD also provides an excellent source of antioxidants that reduces the rate of cancer, providing the optimal environment for muscle growth. In conclusion, a PBD is the healthier, safer way to gain muscle and improve athleticism.

Environmentally Stimulating the Microbial Population of the Guinea Pig Gut Microbiome

Author and Presenter: Lilly Grunski

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Mentor: Youlim K.

Guinea pigs are popular to adopt as pets and are widely used in labs as test animals. The guinea pig is a mono-gastric herbivore and has a short digestive tract; they are coprophagous (feces-eating) animals [2]. Guinea pig gut microbes include bacteroidetes, firmicutes, and the less prevalent actinobacteria and proteobacteria. [3] Guinea pigs are understudied: the way they break down and absorb their food is unknown and the specific microbial mechanisms involved are also barely studied. Current studies of humans show how important gut health is to the immune system, nutrition, and mood, so further studying our guinea pig relatives is extremely valuable.

The Recycling Crisis

Author and Presenter: Tina Chen

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Mentor: Jessica L.

The World Bank estimates that about 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste is produced globally every year. Of that amount, 13-20% is plastic waste. While other wastes like paper and food scraps can be decomposed and are biodegradable, many plastics cannot, due to their chemical makeup and molecular structure of polyethylene terephthalate monomers. Production of plastic waste has increased drastically since the 1960’s resulting in about 370 million tonnes of waste in 2015. Less than 25% of global plastic waste is recycled every year while more than 50% is simply discarded in places like landfills and oceans. The steadily increasing rate of plastic production and the low rate of recycling has already created major environmental impacts such as the contamination of water systems, poisoning of marine life through ingestion, and the crowding of coastlines in countries like Indonesia. Furthermore, recent policies and circumstances such as China’s National Sword policy and Covid-19 have created obstacles to recycling. Systems such as the Circular Economy may help bring change to our current plastics crisis, but the real solution starts with us. Our consumption, perspective, and collaboration with industries and governments is what will undeniably result in a clean and sustainable world.

Why Youths Will Decide This Year's Election / Why Polarization is the Real Enemy of Racial Justice

Author and Presenter: Vikram Seshadri

Hometown: Menlo Park, CA

Mentor: Chang C.

I co-authored an op-ed with my mentor Chang on why young voters would play a critical role in the outcome of the 2020 election. I researched and analyzed new data from the Pew Research Center and CIRCLE that depicted a clear shift toward youth being an increasingly powerful force in the electorate. The op-ed was published on, an independent news website run by CNN host Michael Smerconish. I also authored an op-ed titled "Why Polarization is the Real Enemy of Racial Justice", which detailed the impact of political polarization on the ongoing protests over racial justice. This op-ed was published on the website of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.

Spanish Civil War (The Secrets of Spanish History)

Author and Presenter: Padma Lim

Hometown: Hong Kong

Mentor: Ellis S.

If you are clueless about the history in Spain, like I once was, you've come to the right place. I have written a short fictional novel based on history that took the form of a dialogue between two Spanish people, one being a survivor of the Spanish Civil War and the other being a present-day young man who wishes to learn about the events that occurred between the war. I've tried to analyse the war in different aspects, through the lens of General Franco, propaganda, photography, women, silence, Historical Memory, exile, etc. This project not only reinforced the major themes I have learned from my mentor, Ellis Schriefer, but also broadened my horizons on the value of history.

Meta-analysis of diseases with shared etiology via GWAS

Author and Presenter: Zainab Fatima

Hometown: Fremont, CA

Mentor: Sam N.

Human genetics play a key role in the development of certain diseases through the biological mechanisms behind a disease and act as one of the factors that determine an individual's risk for that disease. In this study, we investigated whether certain diseases were related to each other through shared genes by using machine learning. Public data from a database (GWAS Central) was used to perform hierarchical clustering on related diseases to GWAS studies and to identify several disease clusters of interest. After noticing that diseases that were more related were clustered together, the analysis was focused on a subset of inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Using bidirectional clustering on those specific disease clusters, a final heatmap was plotted to identify gene clusters that were shared between diseases. After looking at the data with hierarchical clustering and further analysis through the bioinformatics tool, DAVID, we concluded that certain diseases are related to each other, and that certain genes may be shared between different disease clusters. Based on our results, we predict that genes that were closer together on the dendrogram similar genes compared to other diseases. We also predict that genes that clustered together play a role in the same disease pathway.

Closing remarks

Let’s all turn off our microphones and give these students a round of applause! Thank you all for coming today to support these rising scholars. If you’d like to stay in touch and learn about future symposia, please leave your name and email in the chat here.

Thank you again! We hope to see you at the next symposium later this Spring.

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