The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

Evan Ding (III) Rings Bell as National STEM Champion

(Source: Evan Ding (III))

In early February, Evan Ding (III) was selected as a National STEM Champion, winning an all-expenses-paid trip to the National STEM Festival in Washington, D.C.

Ding was surprised with the news when he was interviewed live on the Columbia Broadcasting System. BLS Science Department Head Ms. Kathleen Bateman comments, “[I am] very proud but not at all surprised. He is a very innovative science thinker with an incredible work ethic.”

The National STEM Challenge is an opportunity for middle and high school students to create and showcase an independent science project. Top-scoring champions from each state are invited to the National Festival in April. Ding participated in the 2023-2024 National STEM Challenge, developing his project on a gene switch.

Ding explains, “I took a small section of DNA and modified it and inserted it into a gene therapy product. And that could help enhance the safety and efficacy of that said product.” Gene therapy uses genetic material such as reconstructed DNA to treat and cure diseases.

Having started his project last March, Ding went through extensive research and experiments, spending over 500 hours in the laboratory. Throughout the process, he has been mentored by Dr. Zhenghui Li, who works in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Li provided guidance in areas such as lab training, research and experimental design.

Even so, Ding encountered challenges throughout the development of the gene switch. For example, results varied across his experiments. To address this, Ding repeated the same process under controlled conditions for consistent results.

His results also differed from past studies. Ding elaborates, “I wasn’t sure if it was me doing it wrong, or if it was just like the other people doing it wrong. So I ended up going with it and it all worked out at the end.”

As he advances on to the next stage, Ding hopes to further develop his project. One improvement is changing the DNA sequence for enhanced efficiency of the genes. Ding is also screening for a new chemical drug to lower the dosage and potential toxicity to patients. The first applications are planned for the eyes, but he aims for further expansions in the future.

Gene therapy reaches beyond the National STEM Fair into the real world, where it can benefit patients and advance scientific developments. BLS science fair advisor Mr. Scott Balicki says, “Maybe someday these [projects] are the foundations of changes that will be put out into the world and will make a difference.”

An avid musician, Ding hopes to combine his interests of STEM and music. He shares, “Besides science, music has also been a big part of my life. When I grow up, I hope to be a musician-scientist who can study genetic diseases that deprive people of the joy of music. So something related to hearing loss or tone recognition.”

Ding looks forward to presenting his project and hearing ideas from fellow young scientists at the National STEM Festival in April.

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