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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Teens
- Theme: Science fiction stories
- Subject: Science Fiction
- Published: 12/25/2013
The ScientistBorn 1997, F, from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
NOTE: This is a completely science-based story for science or experiment lovers. This is actually a brief summary of Biology I've learnt throughout this year. This story is written based on memory without reference.
Alan was a science student in the University of Sydney. They were required to complete eight assignments to be a qualified scientist. Each student was given a laboratory. Alan had his own private laboratory to carry out his experiments and write his report.
ASSIGNMENT 1: To study the cellular components of a cell.
It was 8 o’clock in the morning. He scrapped some cheek cells and placed them carefully on a glass lid. By using a dropper, he cautiously dropped three drops of methylene blue solution onto the cheek cells. He placed the glass lid under a low-powered objective lens of the electron microscope. He switched off the fluorescent light so that he could get a better result. He could see the plasma membrane, nucleus and cytoplasm of the cell clearly. With his left eye still close to the eyepiece, his right hand reached out for a piece of paper and a pen to draft out the structure of the human’s cheek cell (animal cell). After he was done, he discarded the cheek cells and replaced it with plant cell. Alan scalped off the waxy cuticle at the epidermis of the Hydrilla sp. and placed it onto the glass lid. He dropped several drops of iodine solution onto it and started to observe and drew out the structure of plant cell. As his final conclusion, the clear difference between animal cell and plant cell is that plant cell has a rigid outer layer called the cell wall and vacuole surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane known as tonoplast. Through his experiment, he found out that vacuoles contain food substances like glucose, water and waste products of the plant cells. He also explained about his research on the density of organelles in different cells such as the sperm cell and the cells in the meristem. With this, he passed his first assignment with flying colors.
ASSIGNMENT 2: To study the movement of substances across a semi-permeable membrane.
As usual, Alan put on his white coat and started making plans at eight in the morning. He learnt that the plasma membrane is a Fluid-Mosaic model from Professor Minnie’s class the other day. He thought to himself: since the plasma membrane is made up of a main constituent known as the phospholipids which consist of a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail. Can all the substances pass through freely in and out of the cell? No. if substances either useful or harmful are to move in and out freely, human’s internal environment will not be balanced and metabolism of cells will be disrupted. To prove his own statement, he prepared a beaker containing 300 milliliters of distilled water added by 3 drops of Benedict’s solution. He searched high and low for something with a semi-permeable surface which allows only certain particles to pass through. Finally, he saw a transparent plastic lying in a drawer at the corner of the lab. It was Visking tubing. He knotted one end of the tubing and filled with starch and about 3 milliliters of saliva suspension (ready-made). He knotted the other end and rinsed for a while in a beaker of distilled water. Then, he immersed the Visking tubing into the beaker he prepared earlier. His purpose is to show that glucose which is a smaller particle from the product of hydrolysis of starch by salivary amylase is able to diffuse through the Visking tubing into the beaker filler with water and Benedict’s solution. The presence of Benedict’s solution will indicate the presence of glucose. To Alan’s own amazement, the Benedict’s solution really showed positive result. It turned into brick-red precipitate. He put aside his set-up and sat down to write his report after an hour long experiment. Not only did he write about movement of substances, he also studied the different types of diffusions by different substances. Take for example, glucose which diffuses through the semi-permeable membrane utilizes facilitated diffusion because glucose is considered a large molecule if compared to water or oxygen. Facilitated diffusion is the movement of substances across a semi-permeable membrane down the concentration gradient by carrier means. After a week, Alan’s report was found pinned to the bulletin board and was graded five stars by his professor. He was delighted to be able to proceed to his next assignment unlike some of his friends.
ASSIGNMENT 3: To study the organic compounds in humans.
As an attentive scholar, Alan remembered nearly everything he had learnt in his lecture class. He remembered Prof. Minnie had showed them a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) model and explained that nucleic acid is classified under macromolecules which are a branch of organic compound in humans. However, Alan decided to lead the adventurous step. He decided to conduct a research on carbohydrates instead of nucleic acids. First of all, he studied the monomer of carbohydrates. The monomer of carbohydrate is called the monosaccharide which consists of glucose, fructose and galactose. He conducted experiments on crystallization of monosaccharide, ability of monosaccharide to dissolve in water and taste of monosaccharide. He ended up with a conclusion that monosaccharide can be crystallized, able to dissolve in water and taste sweet. Based on monosaccharide, he deepened his research into disaccharide and polysaccharide. After finalizing his report, he attended to an extra work piece entitled ‘The Uses of Enzymes in Everyday Life’ to help him secure more marks. Basically, enzymes are biological catalysts which speed up chemical reactions. Alan branched out his knowledge into the pharmaceutical industry, paper industry and food industry. He was able to come out with a long paper work explaining the functions of almost every enzyme in those industries. Some of the extracts from his report include ligninase which is used to remove lignin from pulp, alpha-amylase, glucoamylase and glucose isomerase used in the preparation of fructose syrup from corn starch and papain used to break down fibrous tissues of meat to increase its tenderness. From his own research, he had learnt to keep information abreast as the Latin saying goes, scientia es potentia or knowledge is power. Prof. Minnie was extremely pleased by his wonder work. She gave him a pat on his head and congratulated him on his success for topping his class again that particular semester.
ASSIGNMENT 4: Cloning
This is known as the killer assignment because not every student could pass this assignment. Alan was quite nervous as he had never learnt anything about cloning. He could not imagine cloning an animal like Dolly, the sheep. How if something went wrong during the experiment? Was he going to create a monster instead of an animal? He lost his appetite throughout the week. There, he sat at his work table in his laboratory, doing researches about cell division. He read about stages in mitosis and meiosis but still, there was nothing about cloning. However, his brain was no longer blank. He had a superb idea! Instead cloning an animal, he preferred to clone a plant. The next day, he came back to his laboratory with an explant, a part of a well-developed hibiscus. He wore his latex gloves and started preparing high-cultured medium and growth hormones. He immersed the explant into the medium and left it for a few days. When he found new shoots growing from the explant, he used a sterilized scalpel to cut off the old plant. Then, he prepared another medium containing root-growth hormone to enhance rooting of the new shoot. After rooting, the plant was transferred to a nursery next to his university and finally to his own university compound after his plant showed maturity. Several weeks later, it was time to present their work. Prof. Minnie took a close observe at Alan’s cloned hibiscus and found out that something was really wrong. “I thought you wrote in your report that you had used a red Hibiscus rosa sinensis. And how come your hibiscus here turned out to be white?” thinking of decolourisation, it was rather impossible. However, he passed his assignment with a low passing rate – at lease he was better than his friend, Wendy who had cloned a squirrel instead of a hamster. Its heartbeat lasted for only several hours. The super-emotional Wendy broke down in tears after her cloned pet’s ‘tragic’ death. Alan smiled to himself. Only Bryan, Estella, Lizzie, Michelle and himself passed their forth assignment – at a very low rate, of course.
ASSIGNMENT 5: To study the energy values of various food samples.
Alan knew pretty well that he did not do well in his previous assignment. He decided to pull up his socks this time. He spent one whole afternoon in the grocery, selecting the best cashew nuts, some dry bread and dried coconut kernel. The next day, he brought them into his lab. Firstly, he took out a retort stand from the cabinet. He pulled out a Pyrex test tube from the rack behind him. He brought the test tube close to the sink and filled it with 5 milliliters of distilled water. The initial temperature of water is recorded. With a small metallic hook, he poked the cashew nut slightly and then heated it with a Bunsen burner. When the cashew nut started to burn, he placed it directly under the vertically-clamped test tube to heat up the water in it. Holding the cashew nut in his right hand, he stirred the water gently using a glass rod with his left hand. The final temperature was recorded as soon as the cashew nut had stopped burning. Alan repeated the same steps for dry bread and dried coconut kernel. From this experiment, he understood the meaning of energy value or also known as calorific value. It is the amount of heat produced when 1 gram of food increased the temperature by 1 degree Celsius. As usual, he would sit in his favorite table to complete his report. While writing, he thought to himself, “Since this is under the nutrition subtitle, why not include something about digestion in humans or even animals?” He switched on his Lenovo idea pad and went on the net on digestion in animals. After the 30-minutes video from YouTube, he understood completely about the parts of stomach of a cow (ruminant) and the flow of digestion of a cow. Digestion in ruminants were always considered a confusing and yet a torrential topic among scholars because they tend to mix up the four stomach chambers of a cow and their function, namely the rumen, omasum, abomasums and reticulum. Another unique characteristic about digestion in ruminants were that food passes the cow’s alimentary canal twice as they regurgitate and reach for the cud then reswallow unlike digestion in humans or rodents. As Alan handed in his thick report, Mr. Robinson Acute, his marker for this time, looked at him with his strict and bulging eyes. His heavy moustache covering over his Angelina Jolie lips had made Alan shrink. A week later, Alan was called by his Prof. Minnie to meet Mr. Robinson personally. He adjusted his tie as he walked up cowardly to Mr. Robinson’s desk. Mr. Robinson turned over to face him with his killing-stern look. “Excellent!” he exclaimed in his thunderous voice which made Alan back-stepped and fell onto the ground with a thud. Embarrassed by his own reaction, Alan stood up quickly and bowed politely to the laughing Mr. Robinson.
ASSIGNMENT 6: To study the respiratory structure and mechanism in animals/ insects.
Firstly, Prof. Minnie explained about surface area to volume ratio (TSA/V) of Paramecium sp and humans. She said that Paramecium sp has a TSA/V of 300 compared to humans’ of about 0.4 only. The large surface area of Paramecium sp enables gaseous exchange to take place by simple diffusion from the plasma membrane into the cytoplasm of the Paramecium sp. its small body is able to ventilate the movement of respiratory gases well. Upon hearing this, Michelle, who sat next to Alan in their classroom said that she had planned to bisect a frog to study the buccopharyngeal system of the frog. What about Alan? He loathed experiments involving living things especially animals. When everyone else had left their classroom, Alan sat there alone, waiting for a brilliant idea to approach his mind. “If only I could catch a grasshopper.” he thought. But how could a grasshopper is compared with his friends’ frogs? To compare tracheal system to buccopharyngeal system eventually put him to a dead end. Finally, he thought of his teacher in high school whom once told them a joke about a fish saying ‘Hello’ to Manhattan. Brilliant! He could use a fish instead of those slimy creatures named frogs. He remembered that he had an encyclopedia about fishes on one of his bookshelves. The next day, he entered his laboratory as usual carrying chips and drinks, ignoring the ‘No Food and Drinks Allowed’. He enjoyed his chips while doing meticulous research about the respiratory system in fishes. Fishes breathe through gills. That was the basic idea that Alan had in the first place. He flicked through more books and learnt more about his research topic. The part in between the buccal cavity and the esophagus is called the pharynx. It consists of slits, pointing to the outer surface. They are separated by gill arches. From there, arise two rows of filament made up of lamellae. Each filament contains blood vessels. The whole structure is protected by a removable cover called the operculum. When the mouth of the fish opens to take in dissolved oxygen from the water, the operculum valve closes and the volume in the mouth increases as its lower jaws lowers. Exhalation played the vice versa of the above. As an additional piece, Alan wrote a short and brief introductory about the counter current system in fishes. Throughout this assignment, he felt amazed by the wonderful nature God had created. He even admitted to his friends that he had learnt a vast field of knowledge. Prof. Minnie was extremely pleased by Alan’s illustrations and explanations. She nicknamed Alan ‘The Real Scientist’. A year eventually passed. He had to complete another two assignments to be qualified as a fully-fledged scientist. Alan’s parents were very proud of him as he was one of the very few science students who were able to ‘survive’ until assignment 6. That term, only Bryan, Michelle and himself had passed all the assignments so far. Estella and Lizzie ‘died’ in Mr. Robinson’s hands. Michelle was also nicknamed ‘Marie Curie II’ whereas Bryan was nicknamed ‘The Experiment Expert’.
ASSIGNMENT 7: To study the diverse biodiversity and their specific characteristics.
Alan let out a sigh of relief. The topic did not specify animal and plant. Thus, he chose to do a research about a plant. But, what plant? What kind of plants could grab the attention of Miss Elizabeth Patterson this time? Being a Malaysian, Alan thought of doing a research about the mangrove plants by the swampy area in his village in Malacca. All sorts of local plants came to his mind, but he thought that mangrove would be the perfect choice for ‘bribery’. Besides, his grandparents told him a lot about the use of mangrove plants especially during the days when Malacca appeared as one of the greatest trading centre in the world after it was founded by Parameswara in 1511 until the time when the Portuguese conquered Malacca for the 3G (gospel, gold and glory). From Sydney, he decided to fly back to Malacca for a week to do researches about mangroves. As soon as he reached Malacca, Alan went back to his village where he found the mangroves still acting as his village’s natural decorator. The prop, cable and pneumatofore roots were visible from a far site. Alan’s feet sank further into the ground as he walked further to approach a nearby farmer. Alan spoke in his best Bahasa Melayu (Malaysia’s national language). “Pak cik, bolehkah saya bertanya sedikit tentang pokok bakau di paya ini? Saya Alan, seorang pelajar jurusan sains dari sebuah universiti di Sydney.” (Uncle, may I inquire you a little about the mangrove plants in this swamp here? I’m Alan, a science student from a university of Sydney.) The kind man nodded as they sat together in his rest house. From the two hours long conversation, Alan learnt more about the adaptive structures of mangroves in swampy areas. Mangroves have viviparous seeds which mean the radicle of seed emerges when they are still attached to the parent plant. This is to ensure that the seeds do not sink into the soft soils. Moreover, mangroves have hydathodes at the edge of every leaves to remove excess salt from the plant. Mangroves have succulent leaves to store water for the plant. Besides, Alan found out about the colonization and succession in mangrove swamps as he discovered different types of roots that the mangrove plants had. The old farmer explained to him that there were two species of mangroves which have cable roots, the Avicenna sp and Sonneratia sp. The roots trap mud and silt which made the soil more compact and firmer. The shore is also raised higher. These two species of mangroves are known as the pioneer species as they first settled in the area. Another type of mangrove which have prop roots is called the Rhizophora sp. Another type of mangrove with buttress roots is called the Brugeira sp. The fourth stage is conquered by the Pandanus sp, grasses and ferns which formed the climax community. Alan gave the old farmer a token which he brought from Australia for his knowledgeable talk. Alan completed his report in Malacca before boarding a plane back to Sydney that very evening.
It was soon time to hand in their respective reports to Miss Elizabeth. Bryan was first to enter Miss Elizabeth’s office, followed by Michelle then Alan. Miss Elizabeth examined their reports carefully. After an hour, three of them were called back into Miss Elizabeth’s office. They stood in front of her coldly. She called out to Bryan first and said, “Good job, boy! Your work on Durio Zibenthus (durian) is eye-catching. I heard from Prof. Minnie that you’re from New Zealand. How do you know so much about durians? I’m really impressed!” Next, she turned to Michelle and patted her on the shoulder before saying, “Marie Curie. Yes, you’ve the potential to be one. Although your topic was not as eye-catching as Bryan’s but I do have to admit that I learnt more about the water hyacinth from your piece. Keep up your good effort!” Alan was sweating profusely. What would Miss Elizabeth say next? She stood in front of him for a while and then said, “Congratulations, Alan! I loved your topic most about the mangrove. I guess my decision of letting you proceed to your last assignment will definitely cost enough for your air ticket to Malacca.” Alan gasped in disbelief. Miss Elizabeth was so much nicer than mean Mr. Robinson. She wore a sweet smile everywhere unlike Mr. Robinson’s menacing facial expressions. Their last assignment was about to arrive. Every night, Alan dreamt of himself becoming a professional scientist. He could not stop thinking of it day and night. Would that affect his last assignment?
ASSIGNMENT 8: Endangered ecosystem
For Alan’s last assignment, he did research about acid rain- its causes and effects. After his long day in the library, he could finally summarize the whole passage about acid rain. Acid rain is caused by sulfur dioxide gas and nitrogen oxide released from factories. These gases diffuse into the water vapor in the surrounding. In the water vapor, sulfur dioxide is converted into sulfuric acid and nitrogen oxide into nitric acid. The water vapor containing acids will then form clouds and fall as rain. This phenomenon is known as acid rain. Acid rain corrodes historical buildings, kills crops and decreases pH of water which in turn harms marine lives and also land consumers. To fulfill the question requirement, Alan did another research regarding global warming. According to his research, lands and lakes on Earth require both light and heat energy from the Sun. Those heats will be reflected back to the outer space as infrared radiation. However, the accumulation of carbon dioxide gas at the stratosphere blocked the infrared rays from escaping into the outer space. Hence, those heats are reflected back to the surface of the Earth causing temperature increment. This phenomenon is known as global warming. This condition can be curbed by reducing the acts of deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. Severe global warming will lead to flash floods as the ices and glaciers melt in the poles, droughts, skin diseases (like melanoma) and etcetera at infinitum. As soon as he had completed his 108 pages of report, he reread to check for typos and misleading facts. Proud by his own hard work, he signed his name on the front cover as usual. One unusual thing was that he added ‘The Real Scientist’ beneath his name. He handed in report to Mr. Lincoln Louise.
After three weeks, their overall results were announced. Bryan scored 84 points out of a 100 whereas Michelle scored a 78. Alan himself scored a 90. Overwhelmed with joy, Alan screamed ‘Hooray’ before Mr. Lincoln ordered him to sit.
“Although Alan Raphael scored the highest among all the science scholars of the University of Sydney this year, I would not present him the Best Student Award. He IS intelligent BUT boastful. He CAN be a scientist BUT NOT a respectable one. Thus, I would proudly present the Best Student Award to Bryan McAllen who scored 6 points behind a boastful scientist but he had portrayed the genuine attitude of a scientist throughout the assignments. Besides, I would like to congratulate Michelle Kong for being the only female scientist this year.”
That was a part of Mr. Lincoln’s speech during the prize giving ceremony. Alan looked at the carpeted floor with disdain. It could not happen!
“But, Prof. Minnie named me THE REAL SCIENTIST!!!” Alan protested.
Prof. Minnie got up from her seat and said slowly yet gently, “I admit that a nicknamed you to encourage you to do better. Yes, you did it. But, do you have to blow your trumpet wherever you go? You had better not raise your voice now because” Prof. Minnie paused to hold back tears and continued, “you had disappoint me, totally.”
From that day onwards, Prof. Minnie’s words haunted Alan. He did not dare to boast about his ability anymore. He went back to Malaysia to practice as a scientist in a medical laboratory. Although he had missed the Best Student Award, at lease he had achieved his dream in becoming a qualified scientist. Mr. Lincoln did give him a chance of improvement, anyway.