Alaina Sonksen is a senior at Camdenton High School in Missouri. She won the 3rd place 2013 Addiction Science Award. Her project looked at how two types of bath salts affect the activity, feeding patterns, and death of fruit flies. After receiving her award, she told the writers of the Sara Bellum Blog about herself and her winning project.
What inspired you to research addiction science?
My science research instructor and mentor was Mr. Christopher Reeves. At the end of my sophomore year, Mr. Reeves recruited several underclassmen that he thought would thrive in science research. As far as my specific project, my parents gave me the idea. They attended a local town hall meeting, and the topic was on synthetic substances. After returning from the meeting, they encouraged me to share the harms of these drugs with my school and community in some way. At first, I was skeptical. After all, what can one high school student do? So I dropped it. Then, last fall, I was scrambling around trying to think of a science research topic. My parents brought up the idea of synthetic substances once more, and I was immediately taken with the idea. I certainly had an interesting and relevant science research project, and I'm so glad they encouraged me to pursue synthetic substances as an area of study.
What were some of the challenges you faced while doing your research for the Addiction Science Awards?
Time was the biggest challenge with my project. It was extremely hard to do everything in just a few short months. Science research overall was a bit of a challenge for me because science has never been my favorite subject. I was definitely out of my comfort zone participating in science research. As hard as it was, I am extremely glad that I chose to do science research.
What were some of the most exciting things you learned from doing your research?
So many great things came from it. I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing what I did in science research in such a short amount of time—especially without the help of a university. Of course, I can't forget the awesome rewards that came from it! I never thought I would do so well or go so far with my project, so I was ecstatic that my hard work actually paid off! Even more important than the awards, though, were the friends that I made at the science research competitions. I can't express how thankful I am that science research brought us together. For me, that alone was the greatest reward of science research this year.
Do you plan on studying science and continuing research in the future?
I will not be studying a scientific field in college. Although I had a fun and rewarding experience conducting the experiment that won an Addiction Science Award, my passion lies elsewhere. I am considering studying English, education, or even business and marketing. I am still undecided. Even though I will not be pursuing a career in science, I am glad that I participated. It challenged and stretched me, and it broadened my horizons in many ways. I know that those life lessons will be applicable to whatever I choose to do with my life and career.
Do you have any recommendations for high school students interested in doing their own research?
To any students that are interested in science research ... Do it!
It will challenge you, it will teach you, and it will reward you if you work hard. If you have a passion for science, I highly recommend it. There's no better thing you can do as a young, science-minded person than to participate in science research.