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April 25, 2023

By Molly Alpern, Assistant Director for Advancement Communications

Glen de Vries ’90 and Jesse Lunin-Pack ’90 became friends when Lunin-Pack transferred to Fieldston Middle in 7th Grade. “In 8th Grade, Glen and I founded the Fieldston Model Rocketry Society, which was admittedly kind of an excuse to hang out together in the science lab,” he laughs. “We built a bunch of rockets, launched them, and had a great time.”

The Fieldston Model Rocketry Society as seen in the Fieldglass Yearbook. Jesse Lunin-Pack is in the front row, second from the left, next to Glen de Vries at the center, holding the model rocket. 

The passion for science that de Vries developed at ECFS was at the forefront of his life until his unexpected passing in November 2021. He studied molecular biology and genetics at and later served as a trustee for Carnegie Mellon University, worked as a bench scientist researching prostate cancer at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and co-founded a company called Medidata Solutions that brought together scientific research and technology. 

Medidata revolutionized the life sciences research industry and standards of patient care overall by building one of the first software platforms that clients could use to build, perform, and share results from clinical trials. To date, the company has helped advance more than 27,000 clinical trials, including more than 500 research studies related to COVID-19. In 2019, the company was acquired by French software company Dassault Systèmes for $5.9 billion. De Vries expanded on his belief that analyzing data was the key to unlocking medical breakthroughs in clinical research in his book “Patient Equation: The Precision Medicine Revolution in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond.”

Following de Vries’s death, the Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO) — where de Vries was a board member and a member with Medidata — was interested in memorializing his vast contributions to science. Lunin-Pack knew that doing so at ECFS would be the perfect full-circle moment. “Fieldston is where Glen developed his love of science,” Lunin-Pack says. He reached out to ECFS’s Head of School (and the pair’s 9th Grade biology teacher) Joe Algrant to discuss the options. The answer was clear: supporting and expanding the Fieldston Science Research Program (FSRP). 

The FSRP, which is designed for Fieldston Upper students who are highly motivated and independent learners with a passion for scientific research, is a two-year program that includes a summer research commitment. Students learn advanced laboratory techniques — including using centrifuges and PCR machines that separate and amplify DNA from samples — along with experimental design, scientific writing, and data analysis, all while identifying a research lab in which they will perform their summer research. 

Students in the FSRP don’t just learn advanced concepts — they also do meaningful work for their research commitments. For her research project, Vivian Lee ’22 partnered with Jonathan Pollock ’74, Chief of Genetics, Epigenetics, and Developmental Neuroscience Research Branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, to research and analyze access to information stored in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, which comprise an electronic database used to track controlled substance prescriptions. 

Now, ACRO has committed to supporting the formal addition of a third year of the FSRP with the Glen de Vries Science Research Fellowship and Endowment, allowing select Fieldston Upper seniors the opportunity to continue their scientific research. “Glen was extremely accomplished,” says Algrant, “and it’s an honor to recognize him at Fieldston, where he got his start in science.” Throughout his career, de Vries was a mentor to young science students at Carnegie Mellon University and the Young Scientist Foundation, making this partnership even more meaningful. “It feels really good to have something that will honor Glen and carry on his name at his School,” says Lunin-Pack. “Glen elevated everyone around him, and I hope future students in the FSRP will have an amazing experience.”

De Vries’s love for space that he cultivated in the Model Rocketry Society during middle school never waned, and in October 2021, a month before he passed, he realized a long-held dream and visited space as part of the crew of a Blue Origin flight.

Jesse Lunin-Pack, left, with Glen de Vries, right, at the Blue Origins launch