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Class of ’22 Nicholas Wong Receives Highest Score on AP Research Paper and Publishes in Youth Medical Journal

Nicholas Wong is a senior at the American International School Hong Kong. He is currently in AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Psychology. Last year he took AP Biology, AP Statistics as well as AP Research working to achieve his AP Capstone Diploma. He was accepted into Emory University to study Biology and Applied Mathematics and hopes to become a microbiologist.

Nicholas Wong’s AP Research Paper “The Effect of Ascorbic Acid on Glucose Respiration of Saccharomyces Cerevisiaereceived the highest score possible – a 5 – and was subsequently published in the Youth Medical Journal, an international student-run publication dedicated to sharing medical research and journalistic articles crafted by students. 

What was your AP Research question and why did you choose it?

N: Over the summer, I received a book from an epidemiologist which got me interested in fungi in humans. Over the summer, I explored fungi like yeast in more depth. I also studied bacteria in plant and animal cells. I believe that bacteria is overrated and fungus is under-appreciated because when we typically think of non-viral infectious diseases we usually attribute these to bacteria in our Health and Biology classes because they are “found everywhere”. Yet funguses are not only abundant in numbers, but they also have the potential to be infectious and are more closely related to human cells than bacteria. Both have overlapping features and are ubiquitous yet not studied much, which led me to my research question “How does ascorbic acid affect the cellular respiration of baker’s yeast cells?”

How did you choose methodology and conduct the experiment?

N: I chose a cause and effect approach because I wanted to see if a treatment would affect fungus. I had a connection to a friend’s mother who is an epidemiologist at City UHK and who supported me with access to materials. Due to COVID-19 and AP Guidelines, I was able to conduct a lab at home. 

The experiment was as follows: 

        1. I took baker’s yeast and put it in water. 
        2. I swabbed the yeast and placed it in three different petri dishes, two filled with glucose and one without which was my control group. 
        3. Then I let it grow overnight. 
        4. The next day, I observed a white streak. 
        5. After the yeast had grown, I added ascorbic acid into one of the petri dishes that contained glucose. I also measured the initial and final amounts of carbon dioxide concentration in the air and identified the change from the yeast.
        6. I used iodine to observe the death of the yeast under a microscope.

Essentially, the main goal was to disrupt cellular respiration in order to use it as a remedy for the growing concern of the lack of treatment for yeast infections. The results were that there was no statistical significance in changes between the control and non-control groups. In other words, the treatment did not work.

“Writing this AP Research Paper was like the final battle in Avengers: End Game; so many people came to help. There are lots of people in the world that are willing to help you. Embrace them.”

— Nicholas Wong

Why do you think you received a high score from the College Board?

N: I think that compared to other papers where they evaluated the good side of the experiment, the College Board finds papers with scientific errors just as valuable. Also, just because the original outcome didn’t happen, there were still other implications in the evaluation that carried weight.

How did you get your paper published?

N: Over the summer after the AP Exam, I connected with AIS Director of Learning Innovation and previous AP Research teacher Ms. Kathy Abel to identify starting points to publish papers. I stumbled across the Youth Medical Journal and checked for its credibility. Currently in the medical field there is a push for more open-access in publishing in academic research. I submitted my paper, and they accepted it.

What advice do you have to future AP Research, med, and research students?

N: F. Skinner, an American Psychologist best known for his work on Behaviorism, once said, “The rat is always right.” In other words, what makes a scientist is not only curiosity and knowledge, but his/her willingness to change his/her beliefs and expectations based on the evidence. Thus, follow the data. I did that in my AP Research Project.

Writing this AP Research Paper was like the final battle in Avengers: End Game: so many people came to help. Under the AP Research guidelines for advisors, not only Ms. Hoong, AIS HS Biology teacher; Epidemiologist Professor Sophie St-Hilaireat City UHK; Mr. Benestante, a Chemistry teacher; Mr. Kang, AIS Physics teacher; PhD biologist Dr. Lloyd Mirto; and Dr. Jennifer Gresham. Another piece of advice is that there are lots of people in the world that are willing to help you. Embrace them.