Sophia Zelizer (12) was busy at work this school year in a Lutnick laboratory growing generations of fruit flies and adding different pesticides to their food to see how they would be affected. This week, Zelizer and six other members of the science research course, Amanda Katiraei (11), Alex Rosenblatt (10), Ryan Peng (11), Erin Zhao (11), Jessica Thomas (12), and Mazyar Azmi (10) presented their year-long research projects at Virtual SciTech, the school’s annual science fair, which transitioned to an online format for the first time. Each student presented their PowerPoint on Zoom to an audience of about 40 people for ten minutes and then allotted five minutes for attendees to ask questions.
Although the program will change in the future, students in the Science Research course developed a specific research question that they study for the year, Science Research Coordinator Dr. Christine Leo said. “The science research course is set up for students who come in with a preexisting interest, a question they want to answer, or a field of study that interests them,” she said.
Rosenblatt examined whether there are any relationships between traits of students and enrollment in honors courses at the school using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which sorts people into 16 different personality types.. Rosenblatt hoped that attendees would gain a basic understanding of how the MBTI system works, what traits are favored for honors courses, and why having methods of describing people is important, he said.
Given her interest in the intersection between genetics and the environment, Zelizer studied the effect of different pesticides on fruit flies, she said. Zelizer, a graduating senior, hopes to work in a lab in college, she said. “Through science research, I’ve realized how much I love [working in] a lab.”
Peng researched how the different qualities of a boat, such as the surface material and mass, affect its speed through water. “I was interested in the physics behind how different aspects of an object will affect its speed through water, since this concept is applicable to myself [as a swimmer],” he said. With swim coach Thatcher Woodley’s help, Peng said he used the school’s pool to test his hypothesis.
SciTech’s new online format takes away a principal element of presentations: the human presence. “Physical presence won’t be as integral [to my presentation], and I will have to rely more on verbal communication,” Rosenblatt said.
Even with the difficulties that online presentations posed, science teacher George Epstein found advantages in the new structure, he said. “The online format ensures that the attendees get to see the breadth of HM student research,” Epstein said.
Attendee, Abigail Morse (11), heard about SciTech from her classmates, she said. “The presentations were impressive and showed that the presenters had been doing a lot of work throughout the year,” Morse said. “The presenters gave [a] thoughtful, detailed analysis of their research, and it was also interesting to hear how they had collected their data.”
It is difficult to replicate the energy of the live SciTech events where music is playing and people can chat informally with the presenters, Science Department Chair Dr. Lisa Rosenblum said. However, presenting online allowed students to display their research to the wider school community, she said. “I was proud of the science research students and their presentations because the presentations showed the hard and interesting work that they did.”