“It was very unexpected,” says Thomas of her award. She competed against 80 students from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland; and though winners were selected by a panel of several unspecified judges, Thomas wasn’t shaken. She explains that though she had never been part of such a competitive event, she felt prepared to present her research after participating in both the 2011 and 2012 Sigma Xi Research Symposium at St. Joseph's University.
“I wanted to gain more exposure to the field and get to know other researchers from various scientific disciplines,” she says. “I actually got to meet a lot of people just by asking questions and initiating conversation.”
She returned to Arcadia with an award that validates her scientific skills, as well as a few new important connections, including the Keynote Speaker of the event, Dr. Martin Chalfie, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of green fluorescent protein (GFP). Because Thomas had worked with the material in her Cell Biology class, she felt confident enough to speak with Chalfie personally about his discovery and its applications.
“He gave an amazing presentation, and I got to talk to him about Dr. Wes Rose, Assistant Professor of Biology, who does a lot of work with GFP,” she says. “It worked out really well.”
Thomas’ busy 2012 spring semester was preceded by a two-week teaching internship in Jaipur, India, with Sankalp Take a Pledge, an organization that takes international volunteers to supplement the shortage of teachers’ in Government Primary Schools in rural and remote areas. She taught English and math to middle school students and participated in the Street Kids Volunteer Project. Read more about Thomas’ research and her experiences with Sankalp.