Inaugural Lilley Fellows Recap a Year of Intensive Study
Inaugural Lilley Fellows Recap a Year of Intensive Study

The first class of Lilley Fellows presented their research and findings to their peers and teachers on Friday, September 28.

Jessica Hao '19 and RJ Glaser '19 were named Lilley Fellows last February. Fellows are selected after a rigorous application process. Their area of study and final in-depth projects are related to EA's JTerm course work. Fellowships are awarded to students who exemplify academic curiosity, intellectual rigor, and scholarly passion.

"The presentations demonstrated how students can develop their academic interests into a sophisticated and professional product," explained Upper School history teacher and Lilley Fellow Program Director Max Kelly '06. "The fellowship enabled EA students to mature academically outside of a traditional classroom setting. They cultivated their own research question, project, and professional network. Both fellows defended their work along the way, took criticism and made adjustments. The results speak for themselves."

Through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. William Lilley III '55, the Fellowship was established last fall. "JTerm instills and tests initiative, independence, and tenacity," observed Mr. Lilley. "The Lilley Fellowship jumps off from the JTerm platform."

Mr. Lilley and his wife attended the presentations. "Both did terrific work. I was enormously proud of them. Both of them grew as people during the whole process," observed Mr. Lilley.

"It was incredibly humbling that Mr. Lilley and his family travelled from Washington, D.C. to attend the Fellowship presentation," shared Jessica.

After learning about the cardiovascular system during Dr. Kelley Bethoney's Body Systems JTerm Course, Jessica focused her summer research on the causes and treatment of bacteria-induced atherosclerosis.

"Over 60% of the atherosclerosis patients had unknown causes to their disease," explained Jessica. "Recent studies have indicated the presence of bacteria near heart valves and atherosclerotic plaque. Based on these studies, researchers believe that oral bacteria, when they enter into the bloodstream, may contribute to atherosclerotic plaque formation."

Jessica further explained, "I started out my experiment by simulating oral bacteria in arteries by growing S. mutans on a media that resembles the cardiovascular system. Then I applied two different kinds of antimicrobial toothpaste to the bacteria. I thought if the toothpaste had a positive effect on inhibiting gingivitis, then they would have a similar effect on oral bacteria in arteries." She also tested the natural compound, allicin, which is found in garlic, and found it could be a potential method towards reducing the risk of bacteria-induced atherosclerosis.

During her in-depth study, Jessica attended a world cardiology conference in Boston and interned at a dental office to explore the connections between atherosclerotic plaque and the oral cavity. She also volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia where she learned more about the treatment and life impact of heart disease and other heart-related conditions on patients, their families, and caregivers.

RJ's project was prompted by his JTerm trip in 2017 to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. The goal of his Lilley Fellowship project was to design a model house and develop blueprints for cost-effective housing for the Blackfeet community.

During the summer, RJ traveled back to the reservation to conduct further research with local architects and a stone mason. He also met with members of the reservation to discuss their specific needs.

RJ tapped experts at The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University to work on blueprints and a scale model of his design. He also spent part of the summer interning with local architect, and EA parent, Warren Claytor.

"I learned that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it," said RJ. "I would have never thought that I would have completed a nine-month graduate-level dissertation as a junior in high school. Being among the first was a very cool experience, and I hope there are many students in the future."

Upper School science teacher Perri Zanki, Hon. served as RJ's mentor. Dr. Kelley Bethoney advised Jessica on her project.

"I discovered that even as a high school student, by sharing my passion for research, I not only made a tangible impact on members of my community, but also inspired many younger students to pursue their academic interests outside of the classroom. It is truly an incredible opportunity that allows you to explore your passions to enrich your education," said Jessica as she encouraged other students to consider applying for the Lilley Fellowship.

"Rigor, intellectual curiosity, and being resilient helped RJ and Jessica pave the way for future fellows. I am excited to see what this program will bring next!" said Mr. Kelly.

"I had a blast and it was truly the best summer of my life!" said RJ.

"They were just beyond themselves. I was very pleased to see what they did," said Mr. Lilley.