In Eden Prairie Schools, we inspire each student every day to discover, explore, and pursue their passions. That mission lies at the heart of our Pathways program, which offers a guided course and cocurricular progression that prepares students for college or career pursuits in five career interest areas.
Eden Prairie High School 12th grader Keerti Tumu is a speech and debate team captain, the vice president of community service for DECA, a proud member of the EPHS Asian Student Union, and a passionate lover of the natural sciences. Keerti credits her family’s frequent trips to India for inspiring her love of biology, because “there's so much nature everywhere and the environment is very green…I think I’ve always loved that kind of atmosphere, and so I’ve just always loved biology." When she needed to fill a gap in her course schedule last spring and her AP Biology teacher recommended the Science Research & Design Capstone, Keerti jumped at the opportunity. She "wanted to have the experience of conducting [her] own experiment, seeing how it looks over a long period of time, and making [her] own conclusions.”
Planting the seeds for success
Before taking the Science Research & Design Capstone, Keerti had already planted the seeds for success by taking foundational science courses like AP Biology and AP Chemistry. But she didn’t stop there: Jayson Sandeen, who teaches Science Research & Design, shared that “Keerti is a student who is very interested in science and so really wanted to take all the different courses that are offered.” She was prepared academically, and her curiosity and determination helped too: “She demonstrated a willingness to learn the process needed to do this and to come up with an experiment with the right kind of protocols,” said Sandeen.
Student-led research: Investigating environmentally friendly pesticides and herbicides
Considering her love of nature, it’s no surprise that Keerti’s research was focused on helping the environment. She designed an experiment to investigate environmentally friendly alternatives to herbicides and pesticides, because "obviously it impacts the environment, but it can also impact us."
For the experiment, Keerti separated 30 plants into three groups and tested each with a homemade herbicide: a table salt, vinegar, or citric acid solution. Interestingly, the vinegar solution worked best — but like any great scientist, Keerti sees room for improvement. "There are some things I wish I could have changed, like making the sample size bigger," she says — and "my findings aren’t necessarily applicable for everyone, because I only tested one plant.” Recognizing a margin of error doesn’t keep her from celebrating the wins, including an unlikely secret weapon: While many more traditional science classes proved relevant to her Capstone experience, Keerti’s AP Statistics class this year taught her about the important correlation between sample size and statistical significance. Knowing what she knows now, Keerti advises students who plan to take the Science Research & Design Capstone to take a Statistics class beforehand to be even better prepared.
Tools for the journey
The Science Research & Design Capstone is intended to equip students with the skills to perform rigorous scientific study, including the identification of a problem, investigation design, data collection, data analysis, and drawing conclusions. In addition to building those skills, one of Keerti’s favorite aspects of her Capstone experience was the freedom to conduct her own research on a topic she is passionate about. As she explained, "[the Capstone] really gives you the opportunity to explore what you want to do in your future with more freedom. Obviously it was really fun for me to take AP Bio and Chem, but [the Capstone] allowed me to actually do it myself, so I think that’s a very fun part of taking Capstones." Now that she’s had a chance to dig into “the details and technicality that it takes to actually have an experiment run,” Keerti is better prepared for the research she plans to conduct in college!
Advice for students considering the Science Research & Design Capstone
“If an underclassman is looking into [pursuing] a Pathway, I’d say go for it! If I had this opportunity sooner in my high school career, I probably would have intensively pursued a Pathway, because it does make a difference on your college application; it shows colleges that you have a [focus] and so I would say ‘definitely go for it!’ Show off that you participated in a Pathway, because if I had more time, I would have definitely done the same thing!”
- Keerti Tumu
“I'd say that you have to have a passion for something. You have to be able to pick something up and refine it and then really dig and do a lot of background reading to figure out what it is you're trying to answer exactly, because it's not going to be a repeat of what's ever been done before by anybody. It's going to be an extension of that.”
- Mr. Jayson Sandeen