The Asian Experience at Bio-med Science Academy

The Asian Experience at Bio-Med Science Academy

by McKenna Burchett, staff writer

A map of Eastern Asia hangs on the wall of a Bio-Med classroom. Asian students make up less than 3% of the Ohio student population.

November 2020 – According to Ohio.gov, only 2.6% of enrolled students were of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the 2018-2019 school year. So, what is it like to be a racial minority of Asian descent in a predominately white school? While the exact statistics for Bio-Med Science Academy are unknown, three Biomed Students of Asian descent went on record about their experiences. Generally, all three of them said that although they haven’t experienced any discrimination at Bio-Med, they would like to see more diversity in the student population and in the curriculum.

One of the students interviewed was Marina Levy. She is of mixed heritage; her grandmother is Taiwanese, and the rest of her family is white. 

“People don’t normally aim [jokes] towards me unless they know I am Asian, usually because they make a joke and I tell them it’s offensive. I am also Jewish so there is a mix of jokes surrounding being smart as an insult. Sometimes because since I do not look Asian they think I will join in on stereotyping until I don’t,” she says.

Another student, Lucas Hagen, who is Japanese, also says that he hasn’t experienced any discrimination at Bio-Med. Actually, being the only racial minority in the room makes him feel special, he said. Any discrimination he’s previously faced was mostly about his eyes, or how he looks different than most people. While he is fine with the racial representation in the curriculum, he thinks “it would just be cool to see a lot more people from different backgrounds and cultures.”

Mona Bondoc is Filipino, and new to Bio-Med this year. “I used to feel pressured to speak when my schoolmates were having discussions about race, as I was one of the only minorities there,” she said.“My old classmates thought that I was super smart and knew everything, so when I didn’t know something, I felt a little guilty.” 

One story of discrimination she shared was of her and an old friend who was Indian. People would get them confused, despite the two of them looking “nothing alike.” She’s also had her achievements undermined due to being Asian, getting told that she only got a good grade on a test because she was Asian.

Overall, at least according to the students who were interviewed, Bio-Med seems to be a friendly environment for people of Asian descent, despite the general lack of diversity in the student body. There seem to be far fewer issues regarding racial discrimination for these minorities, and the students said that the curriculum is generally more inclusive than other schools.

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Cows!

By Colleen Bungard

During fair week this year, students had to figure out how they would address the fictional scenario of a federal law limiting cattle numbers being passed. In a study conducted by Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast in 2005, a genus of seaweed called Asparagopsis has been shown to reduce the amount of methane produced by cattle by an astounding 98.2%. The seaweed has other potential benefits as well, but there’s just one problem: we haven’t done anything to utilize its unique properties. 

The authors of the study suspect that some kind of secondary metabolite is what gives the seaweed its remarkable property. Secondary metabolites are small molecules that plants release as a defense mechanism, like the toxins that milkweed plants produce to deter insects from eating the plant’s leaves.  

A variety of other compounds have been studied for their gas-inhibiting effects, including other varieties of seaweed, zinc, and garlic, but none so promising as Asparagopsis. In addition to practically eliminating bovine methane emissions, this seaweed has the potential to improve diet digestibility and the overall efficiency of cattle. Cattle lose 12% of their gross energy intake to producing methane, so eliminating preventing methane production also prevents that energy loss, which in turn results in more efficient cattle. The USC study and other more recent studies also analyzed the impact of the seaweed on the production of volatile fatty acids, or VFAs, which are what the cow uses to create energy. Decreased VFA levels are an indicator of inhibited digestion, but all the studies have shown that quantities of seaweed that inhibit methane do not impact VFA levels.

Many countries like New Zealand are trying to reduce methane emissions by proposing legislation to reduce the number of cattle in the country. However, they are facing massive backlash, because farmers (understandably) don’t want to lose profits or their jobs. This seaweed could be a solution that lets us eliminate methane while allowing farmers to maintain herd sizes and profits.

It’s pretty clear that this seaweed has remarkable potential, so why isn’t it already being used in cattle feed? After all, the Sunshine Coast study that revealed Asparagopsis ‘s potential was published in 2005. It’s been 14 years since then, but the seaweed is yet to be made commercially available. Part of that time has been devoted to further research confirming and expanding our knowledge of the seaweed’s effects, but the main obstacle to actually using it is that we don’t have the funding to develop the methods and equipment needed to mass produce it. Not a single politician or entrepreneur has taken the initiative to use this amazing discovery to solve our methane problem.

That’s where we come in. It’s important that we, as students, learn about things like this so that in the not-so-far-off future, when our generation is the one doing research and creating laws, we can use ideas like this one to create real change. We will be the engineers that develop ways to sustainably produce enough seaweed to feed cows everywhere, the politicians that support its implementation in the farming industry, and the farmers that choose to feed it to their cows. We will have to be the ones to take responsibility for the damage we are doing to our planet. That’s why what we do here in school is important: we need to acquire the skills and knowledge to accomplish what the current generation hasn’t.

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