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ISM Students Seek Cures for Cancer at the Nuclear Level

By Anna Seipelt Goco
ISM Students Seek Cures for  Cancer at the Nuclear Level

ISM Beamcats Team during their visit to CERN in Geneva, Switzerland (photo: ISM). _________________________________________________________________________ “Every person can make a difference: to the scientific community and to the lives of many.” Those were the words of International School Manila’s (ISM) Beamcats team in their winning proposal submitted to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Out of 195 applications received, this group of ISM high school students were among two teams that won the 2018 Beamline for Schools competition, funded by the CERN & Society Foundation. As co-winners, the teams were given the opportunity to carry out their proposed experiment at the CERN physics lab in Geneva, Switzerland. The Beamcats team is made up of members of ISM’s Astronomy Club, founded in 2014. For the past four years, club members have been participating in CERN’s annual Beamline for Schools competition. This year’s team was made up of six students, with guidance from club advisor Brad Hill, who teaches physics. For the past two years, the Astronomy Club came in runner-up in the competition. In their most recent submission, the Beamcats revisited the same topic that they proposed in March 2017, developing and expanding the scope of their original experiment. Their final proposal focused on determining the viability of using pion therapy as an alternative method of cancer treatment. During the team’s two-week stay at CERN, students were able to use the same software, analysis, and graphing tools that were key to the ATLAS experiment, which involved observing elusive Higgs boson decay thanks to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). “The best part of the experience was actually working like a scientist,” said Sana, now in Grade 12 and hoping to become a doctor. Fellow team member Sae Joon, also a senior, added, “We got to see what it was like to be research scientists. It was a great experience overall.” As the team worked through their experiment, they performed different types of testing using pion beams. They revised their experiment to make use of proton beams as a means of enhancing their original proposal. Research for the experiment is still ongoing, but the team was able to make substantial headway with the collection of data using the sophisticated equipment available to them at CERN. The Beamcats hope to complete a first draft of the paper by December for a possible feature in a physics or scientific journal. There can be few more compelling areas of research medicine than the search for alternate methods of treating cancer. Despite their age, these students have shown the talent and drive that may make a significant contribution to the wellness of the global community. In their winning proposal, ISM’s Beamcats concluded, “Never stop seeking answers.” They never will!

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