Welles Grants Support Student Research

News  /  by Anika Bagaria '20 and Linda Li '19  /  January 12, 2018

Courtesy of The Lawrenceville School

IV Formers Andrew Ni, Shaezmina Khan, Chase Johnson, Ashley Oden, Theodore Masterson, Jonathan Yue, Natalie Carr, Simona Mazzarella, Sam Bebel, and Sara Dasgupta were recently awarded the William Welles Award, a grant that provides students with up to $3,000 to pursue a project over the summer. Students submitted their proposals in October and were notified of their selection before Winter Break.

When Oden was suffering from scoliosis, which she had surgically corrected in 2016, she found refuge in photography. Thus, for her grant, she will work with the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City—the hospital where she underwent her procedure—to create a short film documenting patients’ experiences that “will walk future patients through the process and answer questions that [she] had before [her] surgery.”

Oden plans on interviewing a total of 10 to 15 patients multiple times at different points in the treatment process. Oden hopes to “positively affect the lives of young girls like me by outlining a process that is really hard to go through alone [...and] that I wish that I could’ve had someone inform me about when I went through it.”

When Yue volunteered with “at-risk” youth at BeauCARE summer camp in Louisiana this past summer, he noticed a lack of recycling and environmental awareness in the community. Yue said that he will return there to “establish an environmental awareness and responsibility education program to teach and train these underprivileged children.”

Bebel will use her grant to study the late effects of pediatric cancer treatment, an issue she has a personal connection to through her sister, who underwent treatment for leukemia and continues to experience the disease’s effects.

“Even long after treatment has ended, survivors often undergo a difficult transition from patient to person that is often overlooked and intensified by the public’s lack of understanding on how to empathize with survivors and their families,” Bebel said.

For her project, she will meet with doctors who specialize in this issue and conduct interviews with survivors. In addition, she plans to create a documentary “to improve the public’s understanding of the late effects of current treatments in hopes of improving the quality of life for survivors.”

Dasgupta will travel to the Limbitless Solutions Lab of the University of Central Florida, where researchers 3D print prosthetics for children who are missing limbs. After researching the scientists’ techniques and interviewing children and researchers, Dasgupta will compile their stories and experiences in a book which she will distribute around the School, showing how prosthetics have affected the children’s lives. When Dasgupta considered potential Welles Grant projects, she said that she “looked around the community, then at [her] left hand and said, ‘eureka!’”

Born with missing fingers on her left hand, Dasgupta felt that “[she] was never affected as much by it because [she] grew up in a smaller community where everyone knew [her], but there are some kids who get bullied because of missing limbs [...] and have a lesser ability to function.”

Through her project, Dasgupta looks forward to sharing her experiences with the children, and she hopes that with her research publication, “people will start a conversation because many are averse to talking about it.”

Masterson will use his grant to teach disadvantaged youth at a local organization. Using the craft of origami, he will demonstrate key mathematical concepts and physics ideas to the children, presenting standard education in a new light.

Recognizing how local news sources are often “ignored and overshadowed by national news,” Ni plans to make a documentary telling the story of media outlets in the surrounding area. He particularly looks forward to the filmmaking process, which he studied in a photojournalism course he took in his III Form year.

Johnson will explore the effects of President Donald Trump’s new policies on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by working with various organizations to create a documentary raising awareness about Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and who qualify for the DREAM Act.

For her project, Carr will create a documentary about the lack of interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) among youth in Trenton, resulting from the little STEM exposure they receive in the school system. She hopes to prompt change on the issue.

Khan will film a documentary on Muslim-American women dealing with prejudice who have risen above and enacted change that bettered their communities.

Through her project, Mazarella will gather information and investigate the combination of traditional Chinese medicine and Western-based medicine.