Dubai students’ climate change research earns a spot in international journal Filed on August 7, 2021
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For these students who recently graduated from Dubai Gem Private School, the achievement felt ‘surreal.

Best friends Riya Kewalani and Insiya Sajjad Hussain Saifudeen never thought a ‘Eureka moment’ in their last year in high school would make it to an international journal.

Riya and Insiya’s research paper that explored ‘the impact of climate change on life expectancy’ has been accepted by the International Journal of High School Research (IJHSR). And for the students who recently graduated from Dubai Gem Private School, the achievement felt ‘surreal'.

The big idea behind their research paper titled ‘Exploring Human Longevity: The Impact of Climate on Life Expectancy’ stemmed from a Netflix documentary they watched in June last year.

“Insiya and I were hanging out together, watching a Netflix special documentary starring Zac Efron, which was called ‘Down to Earth’,” Riya shared.

“Here, Efron was investigating an area in Italy called Sardinia, which is a blue zone area. Blue zones are basically an area where humans have a life span that’s longer than average and then they showed a map of all the blue zones that are currently on the globe right now. I saw a pattern where all these places were in similar positions in relation to the equator. And throughout the entire documentary, no one spotted climate as the common factor between these blue zones,” said Riya, who has been friends with Insiya since Grade 2.

Soon enough, they found themselves on the Internet, trying to confirm whether climate had ever been correlated to life span. Much to their surprise, they found that while there had been several studies done on it before, no one was able to prove it using statistics.

“In the blue zone hotspot, people easily cross the 90-year-old milestone. That is the average longevity of that region. That’s what we found extremely interesting,” explained Insiya.

“When we Googled it, we confirmed that all the blue zones were about 1,100 to 4,000km north of the equator and that’s when we made a hypothesis that the climate plays a vital role or has a correlation with human longevity. This is when our journey of researching actually began, it was that moment.”

While both the girls are preparing to go to medical school this fall, getting a research paper published at such a young age has expanded their horizons.

“Five weeks after watching the documentary, we had the first draft. Seven to nine hours of continuous work. It was like having a full time job. We just wanted to try our luck,” said Riya.

“We chose the Internal Journal of High school Researchers because they publish four volumes in a year and they are very active. So we thought that we are more likely to get published sooner. Their work is to focus on STEM empowerment within the youth and we like that message.”

What followed was an uphill task. They had to learn different mathematical functions and had to learn how to program. They even needed to process over 3,000 data values again using new functions, apart from undergoing several levels of editing and proofreading.

Getting the paper published was overwhelming, Insiya said, and not even their closest friends knew they were doing something big. “They were all shocked that we managed to publish a research paper with our A levels going on, with the amount of exams and with our medical school preparation. Overall, it’s been a very enriching experience for both of us.”

Nandini Sircar

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