Learning to experiment
“Even in such a small amount of time, this experience has already been a memorable one,” said Rishi Jain, a rising sophomore at Menlo School in Atherton, Calif. As part of the 2019 Stanford Earth Young Investigators summer program, Jain assisted PhD students Tianmei Wang and Aria Hamann in studying how different types of rice grow under changing temperatures, C02 levels and arsenic levels – today and in the future. One of his favorite parts of the Young Investigators program has been the weekly lectures, which cover topics from paleobiology to geochemistry. “Each graduate student/professor has such cool ideas that inspire me to think about other problems in the world that need solutions,” he said in his blog about the experience.
To prepare for the rice growing experiments, Jain worked both in the greenhouse as well as in the lab, where he harvested the rice plants and weighed each individual part of the crop. While testing rice seeds from California, Jain learned about how experiments can fail and delay the research. “During this process, I learned quite a bit about the importance of setting up the experiment correctly the first time, and I am starting to develop a library of checklists that we should explore in future experiments.” Jain learned firsthand how science is an iterative process that improves with time as he worked with his graduate advisor to adapt to an initial delay that occurred when the seeds were not able to grow. “My appreciation and personal interest in science has skyrocketed,” he said.