Reflection on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks was a woman whose life is now becoming so well known today because of the willingness of those that came after her to share her story via both book and movie. After both reading and watching her story, I feel as though I have gained a deeper look and understanding into her story and her family’s story by the persistence of writer, Rebecca Skloot. As I reflect on her story I have taken a look at specific questions in regards to the situation she and her family faced.
  1. How would you feel/react if you knew doctors had taken cells/tissue from a family member without consent?  If I was made aware that doctors had taken cells or tissues from my family member without consent, I would feel betrayed in a way because to me, my family’s life is more important than a study. No one deserves to have a piece of someone’s life taken away without their consent because they need to use it for a new scientific study. However with that said, if the doctors were to ask me, I would more than likely be willing to help given the circumstances if I was in the know that this study was for a good cause not just money.
  2. George Gey didn’t make money from the HeLa cell line. He also didn’t patent the roller drum that could have made him a fortune. What does this say about Gey and his character? This does say that Gey’s character was one for improving the world of medicine, and not putting his life in the midst of breaking news, media, or money. He did this work solely for the purpose of getting his scientific work to progress and make breakthroughs in science forever.
  3. Does a patient retain rights to his/her cells/tissue after they are removed from the body? Why or why not? I feel as though this ethical question could take many turns towards both sides of its argument. In a way, I could see how a patient has every right to his/her body regardless of it being the tiniest cells to the biggest of bones. However with that said, once removed from the body and relabeled for scientific study and research, it could be understood that these are no longer in the ownership rights of that individual, but rather come from that person to be studied and now owned by the research facility.
  4. If you had cells that could lead to a great medical discovery, would you donate them for “the good of science,” or would you sell them? Explain your answer. If I had cells that could lead to a great medical discovery, I would probably consider donating them for the “good of science” with my future generations in mind. If I were to go through with this, I would be very careful and specific in the process of allowing this to happen, in the hopes that these would be in extremely good and smart hands.

After reflecting on these ethical questions, I think the story of Henrietta Lacks is truly a very emotional and sensitive topic given the backstory and generation as to when it occurred. However, I give the family and Rebecca an immense amount of praise and credit for staying strong and getting Henrietta’s story known, because her life and what came out of it changed medicine forever.

Image Citation:
“Ethics of Informed Consent and the Legacy of Henrietta Lacks.” Rabin Martin | Ideas Change Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2017. <;.

#DoNowUShelters Reflection

Do Now U:

Do no-kill shelters really benefit animals? Are traditional or no-kill shelters best for humanely managing stray and abandoned animal populations?

After reading through this article and listening to the audio attachment, this question seems to have many odds and ends to it just as any ethical question does. I could make solid arguments for both the positives and negatives of each side. But after reflecting, I would have to agree in favor of no-kill shelters as opposed to traditional shelters.

Like any situation, both no-kill and traditional shelters have room for major improvement. However, I believe that the no-kill shelters are the most capable of making an impact along with their missions all while aiming to improve the overall lives of rescue animals.

After reading through this article, I learned that “no-kill” is actually just a loose definition, and rather a “marketing term” that does not mean these shelters are 100% no-kill. While this does sadden me, I thought about it and a large majority of animals that are rescued by these shelters are in unstable conditions both mentally physically. The term “no-kill” means that these shelters save 90% of the animals that have rescued, which is a number that could even still improve if animal rescue groups and organizations keep working towards making all shelters “no-kill”.

Looking at this situation practically, there are a lot of road bumps that come with no-kill shelters and making them more practical and safe than traditional shelters. However with work and dedication, I see more positives in aiming to put every effort towards saving the animals that have are capable of finding the home that is right for them. 🙂

On a more personal note, my family just recently adopted a beautiful chihuahua puppy from the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. Our previous dogs have either been from breeders or neighbors who had a litter of puppies, so being able to find her and make this difference has really made an impact in my life. Welcome to the Collins family Cali!

Image Citation:

“Animal Shelter.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 May 2017. Web. 16 May 2017. <;.


My Thoughts on the AP Exam

As I reflect back on the AP Biology exam, I am definitely looking at it from a point of relief and gratitude for all that I have learned this year. Walking in on test day, I felt very well-rested, refreshed from a good breakfast provided by Starbucks, and ready to knock the exam out.

I had spent the weeks prior attempting to work on my multiple choice pace, as this is something that I have always struggled with. I purchased an AP Biology practice book (Barron’s AP Biology for anyone wondering) and decided that this would be my outside resource to the classroom prior to the exam. One of the most important things to me coming into this exam was having an open mind, and not stressing about the outcome of my exam score, but rather just putting all that I could ask of myself into this exam.

I am not going to lie though, this was one of the hardest exams that I have taken. Given the time crunch I inevitably ended up facing at the end of the multiple choice and grid-ins, I was a bit rushed towards the end of the first section. The second section was taken up by 2 essays and 6 short answers, in which I felt very challenged by the wording, but took it piece by piece and wrote what I knew! Looking back, whatever score I get on the exam will make me feel fully content because rather than just my performance on May 8th, I am most pleased with my work in Mrs. Girard’s AP Biology this year in the classroom.




Image Citation:                                                                                                                         Elizabeth. “4 Tips To Improve Memory And Studying Habits For Exams.” N.p., 01 Apr. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017. <;.

LiMPETS Adventure!

Click on this video to watch my vlog from our AP Bio adventure!

3 things I learned on the trip:

  1.  How to collect data on the tide pools using grids and grid squares
  2. When in the presence of Purple Sea Urchins, starfish may be hidden in the crevices and overhangs
  3. These organisms are used to the crashing of the waves (much powerful than any human weight) and therefore walking on them does not hurt them

2 direct connections between what I learned in class and in the field:

  1. How to identify all of the organisms that we saw! In class we went over the Prezi provided by LiMPETS and then took our knowledge we used in class to the tide pools where all of these pictures were brought to life
  2. How to make comparisons and identify characteristics between the different classes and phyla

One memory that I would like to share is that I will never forget how to pronounce Sea Anemone! After multiple tries and debating with Helen about the pronunciation while at the tide pools, it will be hard to forget a funny memory like that!

The service learning/citizen science aspect of the trip that impacted me was that I am super grateful for having been given the opportunity to be apart of something that is much greater and impactful than simply collecting data in the tide pools. I contributed to a study that will continue for a long time and change over even the next few seasons, but knowing that the data I collected will take part in this lengthy study is super interesting!

If I were to change anything about this experience, I would potentially add a small beach clean up to it and make it a day long adventure! Since we were already there in Half Moon Bay, why not contribute more to the environment and our own sense of learning even more! I would totally recommend this trip to others because I had so much fun, learned a lot, and was able to go to the beach when I was supposed to be in class… no complaints whatsoever!


* All footage is original (I used a GoPro Hero 4!)                                                                             ** Music Citation                                                                                                                               Bay Breeze by FortyThr33 Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0… Music provided by Audio Library

Season 10 Roundup: March 5-19

Season 10 – Life Organized

How Life Began – The Origins of Earth and Life

Season 10 is all about life on Earth, both past and present, from the largest of Domains on the Phylogenetic tree of life to the most microscopic of bacteria known to man. The past two weeks, we have learned many new amazing and interesting details involving the origins of life on Early Earth, expanded our knowledge into the religion, evolution, and big bang discussion that has been prevalent for decades, explored phylogenetics through diving into Domains Archaea and Bacteria, and got hands on at the lab tables by filling our very own MudWatts!

We started off the season by watching the movie, How Life Began, which dove into a multitude of knowledgeable opinions and research-based theories about how life started and evolved on Earth.  After that we discussed as a class the many possibilities and opinions we all have about this topic, and all came to the conclusion that we will more than likely never know the exact answer as to how life came to be and evolve on Earth, but that the many guesses and years of research can lead us to a strong idea on life’s beginnings. This discussion led into the well-known Religion vs. Science concept that has been a controversial topic as long as we all can remember. On the bright side, it seems as though both sides are coming to accept the inevitable possibility that both religion and science have played crucial roles into the beginnings of life on Early Earth, and whether everyone chooses to believe this, they both need and complement each other based on the years of research and support both have received since this topic was brought up a long time ago.

Big Bang and the Church

Evolutions and the Church

The Church and Science

Exploring Phylogenetics

More recently we dove into Script 27 which talks all about the Domains Archaea and Bacteria, which essentially are the basis of all life on Earth. We all contributed to a class prezi for homework in which we talk about everything from prokaryotic genetic recombination, to the archaea that have dwelled on Earth since its beginnings. Towards the end of the week we did a short activity where we learned about the properties of mud when placed into these containers with anodes and cathodes, where the bacteria present can transform the energy into electrons that come into contact with the receivers and produce energy in the form of a blinking red light! Lastly we dedicated an entire class period to taking a practice exam in preparation for the AP exam coming in May!

Script 27: Masters of Adaptation (Domain Archaea & Domain Bacteria)


Image Citation:

“MudWatt Science Fair Pack.” Fuel Cell Store. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2017. <;.

*All other images are original*

Save the Bay!

Today our AP Biology class went on a field trip to Save the Bay at the Palo Alto Baylands! We went specifically for their program known as D.I.R.T. – Digging Into Restoration Technology, and really spent our time there learning all about these amazing marshes, and got to work by collecting firsthand data.

While I learned a lot of new and interesting information, some pieces of new science that really stuck out to me were:

  1. What the Bay Area tidal marshes have been taken over by and harmed in past years. A couple examples are the introduction of landfills and careless littering for a long time and the building of cities, such as Foster City on top of these amazing marshes, destroying habitats and forcing species out. img_6276
  2. How to collect data at different plots starting from the tide of the marsh to its peak where it reaches level ground. We collected data from 5 separate points and took down information in regards to Biodiversity of Species, Soil Moisture, Soil Salinity, Soil pH, and Soil Texture. For Biodiversity, we observed the different species of native and non-native plants and then using the Simpsons Biodiversity Index, calculated this information to get a general number that related to the diversity of that specific plot point. Next for Soil Moisture, Salinity, and pH, we used different tools to place into the dirt sample we dug into in order to get accurate data for each point. Soil Texture enabled us to get in close contact with the dirt where we performed a test by grabbing a ball of dirt, squeezing it, and observing its texture.
  3. All of the different native species that we observed while collecting our data. While there wasn’t necessarily a large amount of different species, the ones we saw were very new to my eyes and interesting to dive into learningabout! For example, when our instructor pointed out this bush to us towards the level ground area of the marsh, he mentioned its scent similar to that of sage, and that’s when we learned it’s also named after it, being Coastal Sage Brush!


Another important aspect of today was making connections between our AP Biology knowledge and the information we learned at Save the Bay! Two connections that I made after reflecting on this field trip were:

  1. How important it is to learn about biodiversity both in the classroom and out before one’s very own eyes. Biodiversity is vital to Earth’s success, and the success of restoring life back to its natural state! After learning what biodiversity was beforehand, this field trip really enhanced my previous knowledge and gave me insight into the passion behind keep our beautiful world full of biodiversity.img_6290
  2. If restored properly, native species of their intended habitats will succeed in their growth during this saving process. As we have learned in class, plant and animal adaptations have been the key to their survival and evolutionary development. In the restoration process, these native species should eventually flourish and strengthen if they successfully adapt and evolve to their habitats.

One memory that I would like to share about my experience is that I was the one in my group who took one for the team and did the Soil Texture test! More often than not, I would probably find myself deciding against being the one to put my hand in muddy or worm-filled soil, however today I went for it! I honestly thought it was super fun to observe hands on what I was learning about, all while being able to share the data necessary for our graph!

The service learning aspect of this trip impacted me because it made me very appreciative of all the time and effort Save the Bay and its volunteers put into restoring and caring for our beautiful environment. I am grateful for learning all of this amazing information about our local Baylands because it made me aware of the human impact we have on nature, but if we go about change in the right way and spread awareness, we can make this a positive impact!

If I were to change anything about my experience here at Save the Bay, it would be to put hands on effort into this direct restoration process, whether that be through marsh clean up or plant native species of plants in the ground, I think it would take this learning and awareness process to a whole new level. I would definitely recommend this trip for others, as I learned a lot and got to get out into nature during a school day… how awesome is that?! Perks of #APBio3 with an amazing team!

This field trip was very worthwhile to me because I was able to made multiple connections between what I have been learning in the classroom and what I was learning out at Save the Bay. It feels great knowing that what I learn can be applied in so many fascinating ways out in nature, and to observe this knowledge firsthand! This field trips should for sure be done again, but just to warn everyone to wear scarves and layers because it was chilly!

*Images were all taken by me!*





#DoNowUPigs Reflection

Do Now U:

Should pigs be used to grow human organs for people who needs transplants? Why or why not? 

After reading this KQED Learning – Do Now U article, I was very intrigued at the thought that studies like these are being done in modern science. Scientists are now able to insert a human stem cell into a pig embryo, and study this unborn fetus weeks into gestation. If human organs could be grown in a pig and used in transplant surgeries for all different kinds of organs, the amount of lives that would be saved is truly unfathomable. At the current rate, too many human lives are lost on a daily basis due to failing and weak organs that cannot be replaced in time. However, this could all change in short order. So what is the hold up? Well… this is where ethics comes into play and really makes me ponder the pros and cons of this amazing scientific breakthrough.


This new discovery in modern science is coming at a cost today due to the major ethical discussion it sparks. One of the biggest concerns is that if these pigs that are carrying embryos with growing human stem cells, there is the possibility that these human cells could develop in the wrong place. For example, if a pig were to develop mutated human organ or even a human brain, many problems could arise in the practicality and humanity in the entire project itself. Another issue of concern is that if scientists were to successfully grow healthy, human organs inside these pigs, when would the killing of these innocent animals stop? Would the successful scientists be money driven rather than looking at the big picture of saving lives? Many ethical questions such as these come to my mind just as they would anyone’s mind pondering what this could mean for saving the lives of sick humans, while maintaining the humanity for these animals.

So if I were to state my answer to this very complicated question, I would more or less agree with the pace at which this study is going currently. Science is taking human growth in pigs very seriously due to all of the error there is room for. At the same time, I do believe if scientists have already gotten this far, that they can maintain control of it and eventually grow human organs to be transplanted into humans for a renewed chance at life. I have the hope that in the end, both the humans and the animals will be kept in mind, and not lead to the horrific possibilities being questioned in ethics. Science is magnificent, just as human nature and animals are, and they all rely on each other.

*Images labeled for noncommercial reuse*

Ghost in Your Genes Reflection

Ghost in Your Genes is a PBS Nova special that dives deep into what is known as the human genome, or the epigenome. The “epigenome” is a vast network in the body that controls gene expression, the switching on and off of genes. As the documentary puts it, think of the epigenome as the “software of a computer,” the operating system of the human body!

One of the main topics discussed in this PBS special is the studies done on mice and rats to further look into how epigenetics can be observed in real life situations. In one of these studies, scientists observed the behavioral differences in rats that were nurtured and cared for by their mothers in comparison to those that were not given much attention or care during their early stages of development. These epigenetic marks placed inside of these rats could be very closely determined by increased or decreased stress levels and their abilities to either curb this stress or continue to change behavior. This human concept of changing environments and stress could be exemplified in the studies of these rats.

Another major topic of this special was the recent research and trials done on cancer patients that could lead to major breakthroughs in the near future in regards to “terminal” illness. In example, a woman diagnosed with Leukemia that left her with six months to live decided to be a patient of a trial drug and study. This drug that she would be given would ideally remove methyl tags (chemical tags) that were on her tumor suppressor genes, in order for her body to once again develop healthy cells and have genes that could code for tumor suppressing. This use of epigenetic therapy proved to work in her favor and she soon after was given another chance at life without a time limit on it.

In many different situations, this video was able to give its viewer a look inside the complex world of epigenetics. One thing that is clear is that epigenetics can be affected by one’s surrounding environment, whether that be based on connection between past and future generations or simply the care one has been given by a mother and father. There is always more to discover when it comes to the human epigenome, but studies conducted such as those shown in this video express the human interest in what makes every individual unique, down to one’s gene expression.

I encourage you all to watch this amazing video to learn more about the research behind epigenetics!:

Diana Nyad TedWOMEN Reflection

“Never, Ever Give Up”


In Diana’s inspirational talk, she spoke of her biggest life accomplishment where she swam all the way from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. She mentioned not only the great successes of this amazing trek, but also the severe challenges she faced along the way. She made previous attempts at this long distance swim and even though she was unable to make it those times around, she persisted that one day she would achieve this amazing dream of hers, and she sure did. Another piece of her talk that stood out to me was her pure and humble attitude in regards to her team and why this was so important for her to accomplish. She made a mention as to the point of her being unable to complete this dangerous, long, and straining swim if it were not for the support and aid consistently around her. In the end, she never gave up and achieved the unthinkable which is really very admirable to me.

In regards to my own personal dreams, I have always gone back and forth with positives and negatives in each situation. More recently, college has been that one major dream and focus of mine as I am a senior and sent in my applications in the past few months. I always find myself thinking about where I will be next year. While this sounds like a simple idea, it is going to take a lot of patience and smart decision-making on my behalf in this last semester of high school, which is something that does occasionally scare me. However with that said, I am a firm believer in that whatever happens will happen for a reason. Motivation and filling my life with happy things are the two important pieces that consistently keep me on track and positive regardless of the situation I may be in. Diana’s talk was very reassuring to me in the sense that although life may not be perfect, and things don’t always pan out the way I might expect them to, that if there is a will there is always a way.

Click here to watch her inspiring talk:

*Image labeled for non-commercial reuse


Semester 1 Digital Site Reflection

Looking back on my first semester of AP Biology, I am grateful for both my successes and shortcomings throughout. I feel as though I have become much more knowledgeable in complex topics and ideas surrounding the coursework, while taking each unit one day at a time. Leading up to the final, I really learned how important it was that my semester’s worth of work was organized and ready for me to study. Although this course has been fairly smooth sailing so far, my shortcomings have solely lied upon the occasional procrastination in regards to a project or just simple confusion at a particular topic being covered. With both of these said, I am pleased to say that I have really developed throughout the semester and feel as though my hard work did pay off going into Christmas break. I also feel as though I am rejuvenated and ready for my second semester of AP Biology, coming upon these upcoming months with the excitement to learn new things, stay organized, and plan accordingly to maintain a healthy and happy school schedule!

My Digital Site Journey With AP and Me, that I created at the start of this course has really kept me going throughout all the hard work that I have completed this first semester, and provided me with the ability to share my adventures with all of you! Not only has transforming my blog into a piece of work that I am proud of inspired me in choosing my college major, but it has really opened my eyes to new technology. The internet is constantly growing and sprouting with new websites, tools, and learning devices, ones that Mrs. Girard brings to class on a daily basis. I thoroughly enjoy using a different website or resource on new projects because it not only expands my view of sharing what I love to learn about, but also makes me step out of my comfort zone a bit.

I love being given the opportunity to share my knowledge and reflections on my site because while it is unique to my voice, I can still receive the feedback and thoughts of others through the comments section on each post. My formal commentator, my mom, has read through each and every one of my posts, giving me both words of encouragement and constructive criticism. Comments like these provide me with new ideas, changes I can make to my site, and keep me motivated to work even harder on my next blog post.

I can only imagine what is to come in this next semester, but one thing for sure is that I will continue to work hard and put my best foot forward in class, upcoming projects, and my own digital site.

*Photo is original