2020 Capstone Award Winners Announcement

Congratulations to Walter Liu and Erica Pan for winning the 2020 Junior Research Practicum Capstone Award!

Learn more about their experience with Scholar Launch
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Name: Erica Pan

Grade Level: G9

Program attended: Mindsets of the Time: The Relationship Between Literature and History

Research Paper Topic: How Does "O Captain! My Captain!" best reflect the historical mindset of its time

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Emily Ulrich, Ph.D., Yale

Faculty Advisor's feedback:

"Erica is hard working and bright; she is also earnest and takes the topic of the course seriously. She is articulate in class, and in her writing. Erica wrote a 10-page (!) research paper in which she defended a well-articulated and nuanced thesis statement about Whitman's peom "O Captain! My Captain!". Erica's paper was well-argued, and well-organized. Very impressive for her age, and shows great promise for future humanities projects.

Who Is Erica

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I was born in the US, but I’ve spent my entire life in China. I’ve been going to International Schools since first grade, and it’s been very enlightening to meet people worldwide.

My favorite subject at school is probably Math, although Science is a close second.  I’m in the school Math club and I really enjoy participating in the competitions. I’m also on the school dance team, and I dance outside of school. I mainly dance jazz and ballet, although I would love to branch out into other styles, such as hip hop and urban. I also play the violin, and I’m in the school orchestra.

Why Scholar launch

Why did you participate in the Junior Research program

I participated in this program because I wanted to improve my English analysis level while also learning more about history. The history classes in our school don’t cover a lot about US history, so I wanted to become more educated in that area. I also thought this program would help me with my writing skills. Back then, I was looking for an opportunity to improve beyond the school English curriculum, and I think this was the perfect chance to do so. 

Program Experience and Takeways

What’s your key takeaway

The topic we had for this program was exploring the relationship between literature and history and also answering the overarching question of “how literature reflects or shapes the culture of its time.” We did this by focusing on three poets (Alfred Tennyson, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes) and choosing one of their poems to analyze and see how it reflected its historical time. We needed to research the period, poet, and poem to develop our ideas concerning this program's topic. Afterward, we choose the poem that we thought best represented its time, and through a persuasive paper, argued our points. 


In the past, I didn’t know a lot about history in general, but after taking this program, I feel like my vision of the past has broadened; I feel more knowledgeable in general. This program has also caused me to have a greater love for poetry and thirst for discovering lesser-known historical events, such as the Crimean War. It has taught me a lot about the world, and thus, I feel more passionate about reading about the current news. 


Name: Walter Liu

Grade Level: G8

Program attended: Antibodies: Immunity War - Using the Immune System to Fight Disease

Research paper topic: Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in HIV Patients

Faculty Advisor: Dr.  Clair Geary, Ph.D., Cornell

Faculty Advisor's feedback:

"Walter is a thoughtful and engaged student. He took on a very complex topic for his final project and did a wonderful job with it. He also consistently asked insightful questions during class. Walter far exceeded my expectations for a middle school student. Academically he is very advanced, and his ability to understand complex topics and pose clarifying questions rivals many of the high school students (11th/12th graders) I have worked with. "

Who Is Walter

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I was born in Macau and lived here for my whole life. I used to go to an international school in Macau, but now I attend the Episcopal High School near DC.

My current academic passion includes history, military, and international relations. I also have an emerging interest in biology after taking a the Scholar Launch Junior Research Practicum . For extracurricular activities, I love playing basketball.

When I saw the list of choices in Scholar Launch, I chose the immunology one because I wanted to explore my scientific potentials as I have mostly been focusing on humanities before.

Research Details

What topic did you select for your capstone project?

I chose to discuss hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in HIV patients. At first I actually had no idea what topic to choose. But suddenly I thought of my dad’s favorite basketball player, Magic Johnson, who suffered from HIV which led him to stop playing. Therefore I searched through the web about HIV and found HSCT to be a good and specific topic to write.

I discovered that using HSCT to treat HIV is a relatively new practice, and it basically involves transferring immune cells from one place to another. There is only one successful case using this way of treatment, and there is the danger of developing another auto-immune disease known as graft vs host disease. However, although this method is risky, it also has a bright future if the unwanted infections after the operation are not a concern.

Program Experience and Takeways

What’s your key takeaway

Meeting different people with the same interest of biology was definitely interesting. I practiced the skill of writing a proper scientific essay which I have never done before. Finishing this essay made me feel more confident in the future when learning biology and other sciences. This program taught me a lot about the possible vaccines used for coronavirus, which I find is important in understanding why the virus couldn’t be stopped.