Ria Chhabra, a high school student from Texas, has been interested in organic foods since middle school, when she heard her parents arguing about their value. That disagreement has inspired her to pursue a few research science projects throughout her middle- and high school years surrounding the benefits of organic foods.
In middle school, Ria compared the vitamin C levels in organic vs. traditionally-grown produce and found that organic foods do, in fact, contain more vitamin C. She has since continued her research under the wing of Dr. Johannes Bauer, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Her most recent research has tested the effects of traditional and organic diets on fruit fly (Drosophilia melanogaster) health. The fruit fly is a traditional animal research model, but an important one because of its relatively short life span. Ria has found that by almost every measure (fertility, stress resistance, longevity) the organically-fed flies have fared better than their traditionally-fed counterparts.
Aside from receiving laboratory privileges usually reserved for graduate students at the age of 14, Ria has had her work published in a respected journal and was a finalist in a prestigious national science competition. Her story goes to show that with a little persistence, hard work, and curiosity, anybody- at any age- can be successful in science.
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