Heidelberg Science Trip

For most of the last month of summer break, a few Western Reserve Academy students spent their time in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, as part of an international science summer school program. These students were Matthew Groll ’18, Ran Tao ’18 and Serena Gao ’18. Juniors interested in the program submit applications towards the end of the previous school year to apply for the program that summer. Candidates are interviewed by the science department to determine students who will work with participants from around the globe and from Heidelberg itself. When asked about his favorite part of the program, Groll cited “meeting people from other parts of the world and collaborating with them through our research projects,” as the program has a dual focus in both cultural immersion and scientific inquiry. At Heidelberg our three representatives were engaged with a variety of subjects.

Gao studied at the Max-Planck Institute of Medicine. While there, she experimented with cellular adhesion and receptors. There unfortunately was not much success, but Gao said she “learned a lot about cell adhesion and receptors and a lot of lab techniques.” Tao was less focused on lab work, working to design a computer program to create 3D illustrations with map data. While not actively performing lab experiments, Tao “experienced more or less the standard life of a programmer and some of the rewarding moments when the program actually worked.”

Groll spent his time in Heidelberg at the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics working with telescopes designed for gamma ray detection. His work was a part of the worldwide Cherenkov Telescope Array project.

While a sizable commitment, the program was not only work. The students took a day trip to Darmstadt, where they saw some familiar faces. Hanley Jeffris ’19 was visiting at the same time, and they also met with Lydia Steiner, a former exchange student at WRA. Gao enjoyed exploring Heidelberg as well: “The architecture is awesome and the transportation in Heidelberg is super convenient. People are nice and they have great food.” As a final word of advice, Tao advises interested candidates to “research what different groups and projects that the program offers to understand whether the topics could intrigue them before applying to the program.”

– Matthew Bloom ’19

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