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Yiru Wang ’25 and his science project
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Tara Lennon

Amanda Meng ’25 dove into biochemistry and nanomedicine in a Johns Hopkins summer internship and science fair research project 

Amanda Meng ’25 is not afraid to send a cold email. It was one she sent to a researcher that landed her a summer internship working in Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Center for Nanomedicine. 

“You don’t know what life will give you,” she says. “Sometimes [someone will] say, ‘Yeah, of course, come in.’”

She worked under scientists researching Acriflavine—a drug that is used to control Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a cause of blindness and vision impairment in older adults—and how loading the drug into microparticles (MPs) may allow for sustained release of the drug. 

Hours spent in the lab with the researchers sparked questions for Meng about how to improve the efficacy of the microparticles, and those questions informed what would become an award-winning science project at two local science fairs. 

Though she knows that her project, titled “Effect of triethylamine (TEA), homogenization speed, and extended release of acriflavine poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microparticles,” is a mouthful and might elicit a few head-scratches, she says that the project is simple in concept. 

“I had a really good relationship with the project director and I learned a lot about the techniques and the procedure, how they did stuff,” says Meng. “And then one day I was like, ‘Wait, I think we could do better than this. I think we could take this a step further,’ because they were really limited in the drug loading, which means how much drug the particle contains. And I read up on previous literature and asked around the different researchers, and [the research says that] basically adding this substance called triethylamine is able to allow for the [microparticles] to be bigger and contain more of the drug inside.”

Additionally, she considered how homogenization speed in the preparation of the microparticles may affect the size and drug loading of the microparticles. 

Meng collected data on how adjustments in homogenization speed and the addition of TEA may affect the Acriflavine microparticles in her time at the lab. Months later in her St. Andrew’s dorm, she analyzed the data, wrote her research paper, and constructed her trifold poster for the science fair. 

“MP size is found to increase with TEA amount increase,” writes Meng in her research paper. “[However,] MP size and drug loading decreases with an increase in homogenization speed.”

At the New Castle County Science Fair, she says the judges were curious about her project and asked her questions that challenged her. She remembers a particular conversation with one of the judges that touched on a niche interest in science she wishes to pursue. 

“[The judge] majored in chemistry and philosophy, and we had a great conversation about how those different disciplines interact,” Meng says. “That’s what I’m looking to study—biology, philosophy, and chemistry.”

At this fair, she won second place in the Biochemistry Category, and at the following Delaware Valley Science Fair, she received an Honorable Mention in the Biochemistry Category and the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association - Greater Philadelphia Song Li Award.

Aside from the research team she worked with over the summer, Meng extends huge thanks to her St. Andrew’s community and, particularly, biology teacher Adam Toltin-Bitzer, for the hours they spent together in the Mein Common Room and Dining Hall discussing the project. 

“The mountain of love and effort that he gives this community is awesome,” says Meng. 

Ever since her III Form year, Meng has been eager to dive head-first into research. The Curiosity Quest, an ecology project she remembers from that year, ignited her desire for hands-on experimentation. 

“You could pick your own field of study or a question to pursue that has any interest in the environment,” she says. “How do animals interact with the environment? How do plants interact with the environment? I did my study on plants, leaves, and how the cells duplicate … That really got me excited about doing research. I love problem solving.”

Meng says a genuine love of learning, a love that is not just confined to the science laboratories but to all the different disciplines she studies at St. Andrew’s and beyond, motivates her to get her hands dirty with research and learning outside of the classroom. 

“I really, really enjoy the process of getting to learn about something new, getting to just dive into an area I know nothing about and try to piece things together myself,” says Meng. “I’ve had very long conversations with a lot of teachers about how education is not only an end, but it’s also a means to an end. You’re not just learning for the grade, you’re learning for the content. You’re learning for your curiosity. And that’s something that has brought so much meaning to the work I do.”

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