Harsha Thangavijayan, an 8th grader in the 2015-2016 school year at Fairmont Private School in Anaheim Hills, was the first place winner for Zoology of the Junior Division in the OC Science and Engineering Fair of that year. His project is titled “Can Light Control Heart Rate?” and in it he investigates the effect of light on the heart rate of Daphnia Magna.
Harsha first became interested in creating this project when he learned that “cardiovascular diseases caused around 17 million deaths a year, representing 30% of global deaths.” He had “never expected heart diseases to be a major healthcare burden.” He created this experiment in the hopes to see whether or not something accessible, such as light, would be able to have a large impact in the medical field and if there is “a way to implement it.”
Harsha faced many obstacles in conducting his project, one of which was “finding a way to confirm that light actually controlled heart rate” because the “raw data overlapped a lot.” He did not want to jump to conclusions without substantial proof of his results. To overcome this issue, Harsha consulted Dr. Gil Bub, who suggested his to perform a “paired one-tailed t-test,” a form of statistical analysis With the t-test now supporting his hypothesis that light did affect heart rate, He was able to confidently come to his conclusions.
In his experiment, He was forced to venture out of his comfort zone by “contacting people with expert knowledge in the project.” He learned that science research was not simply a one person job but a collective effort towards a single goal. In the future, Harsha plans to continue his experiments “for many years to come,” as it has boosted his “confidence in finding a way to cure heart diseases.”