SHP Class of 2023 valedictorian Paul Fong’s research paper appears in journal Religions

by Contributed Content on July 5, 2023

Recent SHP graduate and Class of 2023 valedictorian Paul Fong was published in the peer-reviewed journal Religions. His research focused on issues of migration, a topic he also explored in his Senior Honors Independent Study (SHIS) project, “Driven by Climate Change: U.S. Immigration from Honduras.”

For his SHIS research, Fong received honors from multiple science competitions during the spring semester. He placed second in Environmental Sciences in the Golden Gate STEM Fair (GGSF) and received the National Geographic “That’s Geography – Cultivating Empathy for the Earth” award in the California Science & Engineering Fair (CSEF), along with an honorable mention in the Earth & Environmental Sciences category awards.

Fong used machine learning to analyze data from NASA satellite images that measure the health of vegetation — the first study of its kind to mathematically tie the effects of climate change to the health of vegetation, and then how that affects human migration. The model he used also factored in other data sets like poverty, violence, and population.

“I found that the effects of climate change have a statistically significant correlation with human migration from Honduras,” said Fong. “As rainfall decreases, the vegetation health also decreases, which leads to increased migration. The importance of this research is that it can help guide climate research, quantitative and objective policy discussions, effective resource allocation, and holistic solutions that address the root causes.”

For his paper in Religions, he examined migration through a theological framework, seeking to understand the role of Christians in response to the issue of migration, and whether they are “called to have a certain mindset or take certain actions,” said Fong.

“I explored this by tracing the theme of ‘shamar,’ a Hebrew word that means ‘to keep,’ through the Bible. I was first inspired to explore this word because it’s the root of ‘Samaritan’ — I was curious to see how the parable of the Good Samaritan could have further implications,” said Fong.

He connected the idea of shamar with the three major appearances of Samaritans in the Bible — the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan leper, and the Samaritan woman. “I found that the mission of shamar calls one to see with an open heart and welcome strangers unconditionally,” said Fong.

Fong will attend Duke University in the fall.


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