I created this documentary for a school competition called History Day, which is a national program that almost every state in the country competes in. The theme for 2009 was “The Individual in History.” The person I chose for my topic, Senekerim Dohanian, was actually my great-great-uncle. I chose him because I wanted to create a project on someone who wasn’t a common History Day topic, and no one had ever heard of Dohanian. Through my research, however, I discovered that every project he worked on had a significant impact on science and society. After I qualified at the local, regional, and state levels, I made it to the national level of competition, where I won first place for the junior division (grades 6-8). I was in sixth grade when I did the project.
I started my research by getting some background information on Dohanian. He never married, and none of his extended family knew what he did, other than that the king and queen of Spain visited his lab. This meant I couldn’t interview relatives to get information about his work, but they had saved some of his belongings. They sent me several large boxes that contained over two hundred letters, photos, postcards, and memorabilia that Sennie had sent to his brother and his nieces and nephews during his travels. My mom and I read the letters and summarized them. Since he sent a letter almost every day for over twenty-four years, I got a good idea of where he traveled, what he did in those places, and even what those places were like almost a century ago.
I used the Internet and the public library to locate papers that he published. Then I started looking for pictures of insects he studied and places he visited, worked, and lived. Later, I received Dohanian’s resume, which told me what projects he worked on, when he worked on them, and the name of the scientist who directed each project. These scientists wrote papers giving an overview of each insect or project. Then I interviewed scientists who had recently cited Dohanian’s work to get specific information on particular insects and methods of control and also to find out how Dohanian affected entomology today.
At each level of competition I made substantial revisions to my script and documentary based on feedback I received from judges. For the national competition I made revisions due to new information on Dohanian’s work that I found.
Since neither Dohanian’s family nor I knew much about his work before I made this documentary, uncovering all of his work and travels was a learning experience for them and me. It was neat to find out how his work is still being used today, especially since he was a family member.