Science research class members present at 10th annual SciTech

Max Chasin and Erica Jiang

“We like to think about SciTech as a celebration of all things science and technology at Horace Mann,” science teacher and organizer of SciTech 2021 Dr. Christine Leo said. SciTech is an annual school event designed to highlight student science research projects and achievements. This year, it took place on Thursday, after having been rescheduled from Tuesday due to the verdict on Derek Chauvin’s trial.

SciTech is important because it allows students to practice communicating their work to others, Science Department Chair and co-organizer of the event Dr. Lisa Rosenblum said. “For those who keep their science and research to themselves, what good is it? It is important for scientists to exchange information and to share ideas, and one great way to do this is to hold a symposium.” 

Students in the science research classes presented on a range of topics via Zoom. Justin Gurvitch (11) explored the epigenetic role of RP58 in development and aging, Ariana Borut (10) researched Bounty Paper Towels marketing, and Ria Chowdhry (11) tested Miracle Gro’s statement that Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food grows bigger and more beautiful plants.

In the past, SciTech included a poster session with music and demonstrations from the robotics team followed by dinner and a keynote speaker, Leo said. However, due to the pandemic, SciTech 2021 was moved online for the second consecutive year.

Prior to the event, the presenters had to engage in an extensive research process which entailed creating a research proposal, acquiring materials, conducting research, and reporting their results, Borut said. Through this experience, Borut learned how to use statistical analysis when reporting results for an experiment. “Even though it was tedious at times during the process, overall I enjoyed doing it because it seemed similar to the type of process someone working in a real lab would have to follow.” 

Elyse Gay (12), who worked on the Bounty Paper Towel project along with Borut and Maya Nornberg (11), said their group wanted to take something as simple as paper towels and examine how the product is marketed. “We just looked at the different factors that went into how companies present their products, such as Bounty’s claim that their paper towels are two times more absorbent than other companies.” Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the brand of the paper towel did not change its performance, Gay said.

Chowdhry decided to experiment with Miracle Gro because she thought it would be interesting to test a popular product that many people use to grow their plants, she said. “We also wanted to see how accurate Miracle Gro’s claim was by comparing the plants we grew with just water to the ones with the product,” she said. 

Gurvitch, whose project focused on the effects of the gene RP58, mainly conducted his research in a lab outside of school. Beyond his Science Research 2 class, Gurvitch reached out to Weill Cornell Medicine researchers Drs. Nadia Dahmane and Christopher Mason in order to join their labs and begin to chart a path with respect to the RP58 project. Gurvitch feels fortunate to work with the researchers as he continues to expand his network in the science field and learn more about science research, he said. 

In addition to these projects, event attendees watched Berk Balkir’s (12) presentation on Air Quality in Masks, Jiyon Chatterjee (10) and Mekhala Mantravadi’s (11) on the Interschool COVID-19 Research Team, and Vincent Li’s (11) on COVID-19 and Electricity Demand. Viewers then separated into two different Zoom rooms to watch the presentations by the Science Research 1 class before Leo and Rosenblum delivered their closing remarks.

Stephanie Lee (9) said that all the presentations were incredibly insightful and offered her a greater understanding of what research projects can look like. “After the event, I’ve become much more aware of what science research is and how it can be done,” she said.

Additionally, Lee enjoyed learning about the projects surrounding Covid-19 since they directly relate to our current situation, she said. The projects that incorporated student participation, such as the one on Students’ Health During In-Person and Online Classes, were especially interesting as she was able to see how the general data from the student body correlated to how she personally felt, Lee said.

Because some of Gay’s research partners worked from home, preparing for parts of the experiment was difficult. However, working on the project enabled Gay to learn about the various elements that make up the research process, she said. With the help of Leo, Gay mastered myriad research methods, gained research opportunities and internships during the year, and met various researchers. The Science Research 1 class and her project sparked Gay’s interest in research, prompting her to realize that she wants to pursue it as a future career, she said.

As the culmination of all of the students’ work, SciTech is a great opportunity for research students to receive well-deserved recognition and for more inexperienced students to gain exposure to the very important, relevant, and fascinating discipline of scientific research in a fairly casual setting, Gurvitch said. 

Gay hopes that SciTech will inspire students to join the Science Research class and further their research interests.