Student receives ‘out of this world’ experience through Biotechnology Institute connections


Shiyin Lim

Kristin Ma, a senior and member of Carlmont’s Biotechnology Institute, presents her project at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research conference.

Connor Lin, Staff Writer

Although school may be tedious for some, other students are able to find opportunities beyond their classroom environments through school-wide organizations.

Kristin Ma, a senior and member of Carlmont’s Biotechnology Institute (BTI), traveled to Renton, Wash. on Oct. 26 to attend a national conference about space sciences.

The conference, titled the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR), gave Ma the opportunity to present her research project with other scientists in her field.

“I am developing a molecular measurement system for monitoring the general cellular health of astronauts on the International Space Station. I went with my lab from NASA Ames to give a poster presentation on my project. I also attended the conference to learn about all the space research that other people are doing,” said Ma.

After attending the conference, Ma learned more about the feasibility of her project and the steps that must be completed before conducting research.

“Before I can start to study how cellular health is affected by space-induced stresses, I have to first create the methodology that will enable us to do the research in space. I’ve found that this process comes with a lot of frustrating trial and error, but it has also required me to think critically and creatively due to the constraints of outer space. I have to design our method in a way that best utilizes the technologies that are already present on the Space Station and fully optimize the protocol so that it requires minimal effort and interaction time from astronauts,” said Ma.

In addition to the scientific takeaways from her trip, Ma learned more about herself and further developed skills that can be utilized outside of her scientific endeavors.

Ma said, “Having to challenge my thinking in this way has enriched my problem-solving skills, and I’ve learned to manage setbacks that often occur during the development process.”

Connor Lin

In addition to excelling in the classroom, there are additional factors that contributed to her success. Making connections with people in her field of study is what gave Ma the chance to present at ASGSR.

Ma said, “It is important to make connections with people in professions that you’re interested in. I was introduced to this internship opportunity because I informed my BTI mentor that I was interested in working at NASA, and she knew the leading investigator of the lab for whom I work for now.”

Some of Ma’s peers believe that they can learn from her experiences at ASGSR.

“Seeing [Ma] be so methodical has definitely encouraged me to slow down and think about what I’m doing instead of just going to a lab and doing what seems right, but really isn’t. She reached for the opportunities and took them; she didn’t let fear stop her from asking for these internships,” said Alice Gevorgyan, a senior and member of BTI.

In addition to influencing her peers, Ma has also left a lasting impact on BTI by setting a precedent for future students enrolling in this program.

“[Ma] has enhanced all of her BTI classes with her outstanding interpersonal qualities and academic talents. She also has a reputation for being a leader in the lab; her biotech teachers describe her thorough and detail-oriented, which is crucial for a scientist. [Ma] doesn’t wait for opportunities to fall into her lap. She is great at networking — building relationships with her teachers and professionals who might open doors for her or mentor her. Adults enjoy helping young people pursue their professional dreams and are usually responsive when students approach them for support or guidance,” said Susan Gold, a BTI English teacher.

The ASGSR conference influenced Ma and the way that she will approach future science projects. Similarly, Ma influences many people at Carlmont on a daily basis.

Gold said,  “[Ma] is in BTI’s first graduating class, and she has been an inspiration to all of the BTI staff. It takes a lot of energy and resources to run a small learning community, and she inspires us to persevere through any challenges we face. She also motivates us to provide more educational and career opportunities for students like her who are passionate about science and have the talent and determination to excel in a scientific field.”