As reported by the Bristol Press, December 6, 2004.

Farmington High Student Grateful for UConn Program Research Job

By JC Reindl

FARMINGTON -- When Matthew Hall signed up to work in a research lab after his junior year at Farmington High School, he anticipated spending his summer cleaning and disinfecting test tubes and Petri dishes.
So it came as a great surprise to Hall, then 17, when the graduate-student researchers in the genetics and developmental biology department at the University of Connecticut asked him for help conducting their experiments.

From June through August, Hall was responsible for carrying out numerous rounds of tests on fruit flies for a graduate student’s thesis project on connection between aging and oxidative damage, which is the reaction of oxygen and its products with other molecules. The rusting of untreated iron and the browning of an apple are examples of oxidative damage.

The tests involved running test tubes containing fruit flies that were 10, 20, 30 and 40 days old through centrifuges and several chemical processes, according to Hall.

The process was designed to measure how the genes of the fruit flies changed with aging. With this information, the graduate student could later determine how oxidative damage contributed to these changes.

While Hall had just finished taking the most advanced science courses FHS offered to juniors, the theories behind the work he was doing were still beyond anything he had studied, he said. However, the lab’s graduate students and research professors were very understanding, and took time to explain concepts he was unfamiliar with.

"They wanted me to help out, but at the same time learn -- I was kind of like a student intern," said Hall, now 19 and a sophomore at Wesleyan University.

Hall said he worked about 20 hours a week his first summer in the lab while earning minimum wage. Some of his friends were making significantly more money working at summer camps or private clubs, but Hall said he still considered himself lucky.

"I didn’t do it for the money. I did it for the learning experience," Hall said, adding," And not everyone gets this opportunity to work in a graduate [student] lab, so I’m not going to pass it up."

Hall enjoyed the work so much that he accepted offers to help in the lab again for the next two summers. Because research projects often take years to finish, Hall said he was assigned to the same aging and oxidative damage project each summer, although his responsibilities increased.

In addition to test-tube work, Hall said he began conducting data analysis on the fruit flies. This involved evaluating how flies with different genetic lineage were affected by various environmental conditions as they aged.

The findings of the research will be reported once the graduate student wraps up his thesis in the few months, according to Hall.

Hall said he is thankful that the lab’s researchers and supervisors were willing to allow a high-school student to work on such high-level research, which he feels was an invaluable "hands on" experience in his education.

He said he also appreciative of the career counseling department in FHS, which publicized UConn Health Center’s opportunities for area youths.

But perhaps most of all, Hall said he is glad to say he worked in a lab for three summers -- the youngest on staff by nearly a decade -- and never had to clean beakers.

"Everyone starts out washing dishes, but I didn’t wash any dishes -- ever," said Hall, with a large grin.