A senior, Syed won both a national runner up award and a local affiliate award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) in computer science for 2015. She participated in two summers of research, one of which was with Dr. Jeffrey Field at University of Pennsylvania for which she earned awards in the Montgomery County Science Fair. Syed won the Presidential Service Award in 2013 from volunteering at the organization Cradles to Crayons. She is also varsity tennis captain for Baldwin.
Main Line Media News: You participated in two summers of research, one of which was with Dr. Field at Penn. You earned awards in the Montgomery County Science Fair for your research under Dr. Field. Can you tell us a little about your two projects and what you learned from your research?
Jasmine Syed: Two summers ago I participated in the TREES (Teen Research and Education in Environmental Studies) program led by Dr. Jeffrey Field. The program was fantastic and I got the opportunity to create my own project and work on it independently with mentorship from Dr. Field. My project was called “Mutagenesis of Diesel and Biodiesel” and for the project I used the Ames test to see if diesel exhaust or biodiesel exhaust was more carcinogenic (or likely to cause cancer). Many people think that since biodiesel is better for the environment, it must be better for human health, but I actually found that they are equally carcinogenic.
This past summer I worked in the Cardiovascular Institute at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Jeffrey Billheimer as part of the gene therapy program. I worked on a project that connected to the research Dr. Billheimer’s team was working on. His team had been researching the ARV1 gene. They knew that when the gene was removed in mice, they were leaner yet more at risk for heart disease. My project was to test if this effect was because of a change in sphingolipid metabolism, and my project was called “The Effect of the ARV1 Gene on Sphingolipids.”
Main Line Media News: You won the Presidential Service Award in 2013 from volunteering at the organization Cradles to Crayons. What did the experience teach you? What role does community service play in your life?
Jasmine Syed: When I volunteer at Cradles to Crayons, I am usually in the “shopping” section of the warehouse. This is the section where all of the parts of the “Kid pack” come together. Each “Kid Pack” is made specifically for a kid who is in a low-income or homeless situation and needs clothing, books, shoes, or toys. This has always been a really powerful section for me. You’re given a slip of paper that says something along the lines of: “Sarah, age 6, in the women’s domestic violence shelter, needs clothes” and you have to get the items from the warehouse that are needed for that child. That’s when it becomes real that you’re helping someone.
Main Line Media News: You won both a national runner up award and a local affiliate award from the NCWIT in computer science for 2015. Can you tell us a little about your experiences in computer science and what you learned from them?
Jasmine Syed: The award from NCWIT is an award for aspirations and achievements in computer science and technology. Last fall, I partnered with the local non-profit Techgirlz to teach computer science workshops to middle school girls. Techgirlz works to decrease the gender gap in STEM fields by encouraging more girls to pursue technology. In my classes, I taught Scratch (a basic coding language), and Raspberry Pi (a mini computer). Through this experience, I learned a variety of skills such as how to create a lesson plan, how to keep a class engaged, and how to think differently to teach a concept to someone.
(To be selected as Main Line Student of the Week, a student must first be nominated by his or her school.)