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Conducting Scientific Research To Help Our Planet and Save Lives

Micahra Semper in Bio Lab


During her Biology II Lab last year, Micahra Semper began conducting scientific research aimed at bioremediation (using living organisms to decontaminate affected areas). After news of an oil spill off the coast of California in November 2023, she and two of her classmates set about trying to determine if earthworms could lessen the environmental impact of diesel in soil. They monitored how the earthworms affected pothos plants growing in soil that had diesel in it and found that the terrestrial invertebrates did indeed help the plants stay alive longer. The research was a good combination of Micahra’s passion for science and her commitment to helping the environment. She has plans to continue conducting research after she graduates with her degree in Science with a concentration in Biology, while she also earns her high school diploma as one of 15 Schenectady High School students graduating this year through the Schenectady Smart Transfer Early College High School Program.

Micahra, who is in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and her team members presented their bioremediation research during STEM Day last year. This year, she shared her ideas about sustainability on campus and how to reuse dyes in science classes. She has also handed out plants to students during Earth Week. “I really like keeping the environment healthy,” she said. “We have to be good to the environment.” It’s something she has cared about since she was a child while helping her grandmother garden. She has been interested in science for as long as she can remember. “When I was growing up, my Mom always had Nat Geo or the Smithsonian Channel on TV, so I was always curious. I wanted to be a paleontologist at first and dig up fossils.”

But after listening to her mother talk about her work at a local nursing home, Micahra's focus shifted. “I got really interested in the medical field and wanted to help people,” she explained. Micahra plans to do this by conducting medical research in the immunology and oncology fields, to develop new therapeutics for various diseases. “I decided to pursue that because I have had family members and friends who had illnesses and I wanted to help contribute and find a way to make those illnesses not as life-threatening,” she explained. 

Micahra is already expanding her knowledge of healthcare as a volunteer on the surgical care floor at Ellis Hospital where she assists secretaries and nurses. When she’s not there or going to school, she’s playing tennis on the Schenectady High School Tennis Team or on a 15-Love competitive team. She has also taught youngsters tennis for the past several years through 15-Love, where she too first learned the sport.

This fall, Micahra will head to Colgate University for her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. She then plans to earn her master’s degree and Ph.D. She will be the first in her family to graduate from college. “It’s really special that I’m able to graduate not only from high school, but from college while I’m still in high school,” she said.