Aloha! Wells hosted our summer science program for 2023 at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, marking our 9th year taking high school students for this university immersion summer camp. It is not just any summer camp or summer internship.
This is a full immersion experience where students live on campus in the university dorms, spend their weekdays working in university laboratories, and their weekends hiking, visiting beaches, parks and culturally significant places around the island of Oahu, Hawaii in the U.S.
Summer of 2023 marks the 9th year Wells students entered the CTAHR labs, working under research professors, aiding PhD and Master’s level graduate students carry out their research addressing global and local challenges faced in tropical agriculture.
From sequencing genomes of pathogenic bacteria, to dissecting maize plants, to measuring compounds and compositions of tropical foods, the labs give students first hand experience in high-level investigations that have real-world implications for our food systems. Their reflections below give insight into the spark of lifelong learning provided by this summer travel opportunity.
Students Reflect on the Life-Long Learning
I had an opportunity to visit Hawaii for six weeks for a science program and had new experiences while doing lab and outside activities. I used dry matter, acidic detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, and gross energy to analyze nutrients. In addition, I learned how to identify cell patterns, structures, and tissues by hematoxylin and eosin staining. It was meaningful to have time for in-depth questions and answers about what I was curious about up close, and it was a good opportunity and experience for me to gain expertise. Also, it was worthwhile to meet and communicate with people from many different cultures and make good memories.
– Seeun (Ally) Gu (℅ 2025)
This summer was a great summer as it was a great experience which brought the best out of me. I was able to gain great experience in working in the labs. In the labs I was able to learn how to do things like running PCR’s, gel amplification, colony PCR confirmation, plasmid extraction and much more. Working in the lab wasn’t the only thing we did as we were able to explore the island of Oahu by doing various activities like surfing, hiking, shopping and much more. On this trip, I felt I was able to bond closer to the other people who I went with and this made us all really close to one another as we were united. This trip also helped me grow more as an individual in the sense where I became more independent and less dependent on others. This summer will always be one of my most memorable ones and I hope the others who go in the future years will be able to have a great experience, too.
– Veeranan Luthra (℅ 2026)
Hawaii Summer Camp 2023 lasted six weeks in total. I’ve learned a lot over my six weeks in Hawaii, both inside and outside the lab. I learned about many different aspects of phytobacteriology in the lab, but the different stages involved in PCR (polymerase chain reaction), DNA extraction, Gel elution are some experiments I will never forget. During our six-week stay in Hawaii, we had free time after lab and on the weekends to explore the island.This helped me grow as a person, helped me learn how to follow directions, and helped me become a “leader” to my friends. On top of that, I consider myself really fortunate to be learning volleyball in Hawaii and receiving training in skills like blocking that I was unable to fully learn back in Thailand. This summer will always be one of my favorite memories with all eight students that had taken part in the summer science camp. Overall, I’ve changed a lot as a person and learned a lot of new things, and having this experience has helped me develop as a person who is beginning to be humble and open-minded.
– Jimin An (℅ 2025)
During the summer, I spent my time in Dr. Muszynski’s lab and I learned a lot of different things and had a lot of different experiences. There were three main things that I learned during the summer. First was dissection of plants. It helped me with my technique because if I want to become a doctor, then dissection would be a really important part of it and I feel that dissection has given me tons of experience. The next thing that I have learned is DNA extraction. I felt that I would not be able to find other places where I would be able to practice doing DNA extraction on our own. The lab taught us everything we needed to know and that made us able to do it on our own. I have also learned how to use the PCR and how to make the samples. I have not only learned how to make the samples but i have also learned on why each chemical had to be added inside the mixture in order for it to work and process. There were also so many other facts that I have learned during my time at the lab. I felt that this had helped my base for science become a lot stronger and I think that will benefit me a lot because I want to pursue a career in medicine. My time in the lab had also made me learn about all the equipment in the lab and how to do everything inside the lab. By going to the lab everyday it has also helped me experience college life, by making sure I get there in time, by making sure I know what I am doing, and I feel like it has made me a lot more independent instead of relying on others all the time. So I felt like I have grown a lot as a person, too, because I had to talk to adults and that made my communication much better as well. To sum it up, this summer I learned so many things such as PCR, DNA extraction, and more. It made me grow so much as a person and it has expanded my knowledge by a lot.
– Alan Khorana (℅ 2026)
This Hawaii Summer program is an amazing life experience full of memorable moments that I will never ever forget. Being exposed to new circumstances, interacting with different people, and trying out new activities together did not only stretch me to improve academically, but also personally. Staying apart from the space and people around me was not an easy decision to make; however, it was definitely an opportunity that I would have seriously regretted if I missed it. The word ‘nematode’ was once meaningless to me before as an unknown living organism; but through different experiences I had as a part of the Plant Nematology lab, it became the most exciting species to be passionate about. Starting from estimating the nematode population using the microscope to performing PCR and sequencing on Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs), there were a number of activities related to entomology and agriculture that I could participate in in both the lab and the field. During my time outside the lab, I could fully feel the nature of Hawaii by engaging in a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, surfing, and snorkeling. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had in my life! With all the new adventures I had, the amazing people I met, and the energetic activities I did, Hawaii will forever be remembered as the most beautiful island on Earth.
– Seoyeon Park (℅ 2025)
This summer, I have gotten the opportunity to study at the University of Hawaii lab at Manoa, due to the summer science program that our school offered for Wells students. It was a summer program in which students from Wells were able to actually go and learn more about science (specifically plant science) while working in an actual professional lab in the University of Hawaii. During my stay for 6 weeks in Hawaii, I learnt various things, not just things related to the field of science and just labs, but also was able to have the opportunity to experience what “university life” would be like. Before going to UH, I never really had the experience of working in a proper science laboratory before, so I was pretty nervous when I had to work in the lab, especially since I am not the best at science. I was really nervous and anxious about working in the same lab as graduate students and masters students, as I knew that the level was very different from my own understanding and level of science. Talking more about our lab, our labs were more on the side of plant science, such as agriculture. My lab specifically was researching Tropical plants and soil sciences. In this lab, I was able to learn many different new types of plants and allowed me to further understand how and why specific plants form this way. We were able to learn about mechanisms of the many different types of plant all around the world, and we had also researched about how the flowering time of plants are different depending on their inbreds, and many more. Our lab really liked corn, as our lab researched and studied mutant forms of corn with different types of leaves. With many different types of leaf shapes and its appearance, the corn can be very different with each other in different ways. In order for us to further understand this scientific process, we had done many experiments and lab work with corn. We did many different experiments such as PCR, DNA extraction, dissection, and many more. We had to extract DNA from different types of corn that have different types of inbreds. In order to do this, we had gotten parts of different types of corn leafs before they fully grew as a grown up corn. I had extracted DNA by through the process of DNA extraction which included grinding the leaf, pipetting different liquids in order to actually be able to extract the DNA and more.
I had also learnt how to do PCR, which was a scientific process in order to look at the results of our DNA that we extracted. However, my favorite thing that I learnt during the summer was dissection. Dissection is a process in which you dissect plants in order to find the things you are looking for in the plant. In my case, I had to dissect a corn leaf before it turned into a corn, in order to find the stage of the meristem. I probably dissected about more than 80 corn plants during the summer, and although it was really tiring to do, it was definitely one of the best things I learnt and did during the summer. I also had the opportunity to be able to go to the lab’s greenhouses and the corn farm, which allowed me to know what it was like working in a farm as well. My graduate students even took me out for lunch and some of us even had dinner together and surfed together! It was one of the best times I’ve had in my life, and in the future, I would like other Wells students to have the same experience I had, as it was a really good experience as well as a new challenging step for me in life. I would really like to thank the school, Ms.Katherine, and my parents for allowing me to have this opportunity to happen. I hope I will get to meet my professor and the lab members again one day, as I already miss going to the lab and doing lab work everyday! Thank you so much once again!
– Anne Fukuura (℅ 2026)
Hawaii was a great experience for me. It is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a field that isn’t offered at our school. I was able to explore nutritional animal science which was related to poultry feed. I learned things from the lab and I was able to incorporate it into my IB life.
– Puard Kasemsuk (℅ 2024)
More has happened in these 6 weeks than the past semester of this year. Hawaii was a wonderful experience, I was able to experience things I’ve never considered doing. Flying 17 hours away from home and living alone for 40 days, surfing at Waikiki beach, hiking up Koko Head, snorkeling at Hanauma bay, all of which were very new and exciting for me. Being able to be so close in touch with nature was, in my opinion, the most worthy aspect of this trip. By all means, working in the lab was equally rewarding.
At UH, I worked in a food bioactive compound lab, in which I learned how to extract and test for total phenolic compounds in different samples, then interpreting the data (a LOT of math) to make it more applicable for the general public. Fortunately, I was able to work on an individual project during my time there; I worked with Hawaiian pineapples and used several tests to determine the amount of phenolics, sugar, or water content per gram of pineapple. I really enjoyed the talks with my professor and conversations with my graduate student, as they helped me understand the life of a scientist. Additionally, I was able to attend several seminars and defenses which allowed me to meet more people and essentially watch how academic research is evaluated. Overall it was a great time, and I miss it already.
– Krittika (Grace) Luangyot (℅ 2025)
Some of our students stepped out of their comfort zone and tried various activities, including hiking in the mountains and surfing in the cool Pacific waters at Waikiki beach.
Acknowledgements (Shout outs!)
We must give our greatest thanks to all the faculty and staff, the graduate and undergraduate students at UH who opened their labs, projects, and hearts to our Wells International School students this past summer. It is their generosity and willingness to take on these high school students that Wells students experience inquiry and exploration in science, as well as making real world connections, and building important soft skills in learning how to work with others. Also, many thanks to our Head of School, Mr. Ray, for keeping committed to providing this opportunity through the collaborative efforts with his former Hawaii student, Clesson. Thanks to Clesson Higashi for helping continue this once in a lifetime experience for our students here in Thailand to visit the U.S. and work in university labs. We also couldn’t experience the fullness of Hawaii without our friends there, Amber and Justin, who both were graduates of UH CTAHR and have continued to help us see the beauty of Oahu and get beyond the city life. Thank you everyone!
Students are happy and nostalgic as they are saying farewell to Oahu island after their summer in the UH science labs and exploring the nature and culture of the unique U.S. state of Hawaii.
Hikes for sunrise views of the Pacific ocean, tourist attractions like the popular Hawaiian shaved ice and famous Waikiki beach are among the many trips that students took on their weekend breaks from the science labs at UH.
University of Hawaii (UH) professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and Wells high school summer scholars gather together in front of the St. John building on Manoa campus, part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) in July 2023 for a final farewell after six weeks together in the labs.