Student Feature: Rachel Chan

Last Saturday, Sophomore Rachel Chan presented a year-long project at the Central Indiana Regional Science Fair. Chan’s project was researched based and focused on transcription, the process in cellular reproduction.

“It focused on RNA Polymerase II and an associated complex called the Cleavage and Polyadenylation Factor (CPF),” Chan said. “Basically that complex is made up of multiple protein subunits that regulate the function of RNA Polymerase II. If things are adjusted in the CPF complex then that can influence the way that RNA Polymerase II functions and therefore affect that process very significantly.”

The mass spectrometer used by Chan. It analyzes protein fragments by mass and charge.
The mass spectrometer used by Chan. It analyzes protein fragments by mass and charge.

The fair consisted of multiple grade levels that stretched from middle school to high school. Judges individually will approach a contestant and judge their project based on criteria such as the validity of the research. According to Chan, the presentations are normally judged three times and then possibly more through call-backs.

”The point of the research is applied to diseases and human health,” Chan explained. “We look at it in yeast so that we can have a simpler organism to apply those molecular processes.”

Chan received help and guidance in the process of creating her project. Teacher Trina Veerkamp sponsored Chan and coordinated with the science fair. Chan based her project on research that was previously done by her mentor and her mentor’s graduate student.

”My mentor is a doctor at IUPUI who has a lab that does research in this yeast,” Chan said. “I was helped by one of her graduate students in the lab and she basically explained me the experiments and helped me go through it.”

Chan has participated in this science fair since her 4th grade year. In previous years she has done projects on mechanical and kinetic energy, botany and renewable energy. Chan’s project this year qualified her for the state-wide science fair.

”I have always been interested in science,” Chan said. “When the science fair opportunity came in middle school I decided I might as well try it and since it has become a tradition that I do every year.