| by Katy Kachnowski |
On March 7, high school students from all across Westchester gathered in the Sleepy Hollow High School gymnasiums to compete in the annual Westchester Science and Engineering Fair (WESEF). This year’s event hosted 423 projects from a total of 35 schools.
Science research is a three-year elective in the high school. Students pick an area of science, read journal articles and other sources of literature on their topic, and finally search for a mentor who will help them conduct a study. The researchers typically finish the experiments as juniors and enter competitions in the spring of their junior and senior year. These events range from local to regional levels. For the projects of the highest caliber, there are international contests that are as competitive as the Olympics.
This year, 23 Sleepy Hollow students competed under the guidance of teachers Mrs. Janet Longo-Abinanti and Mrs. Michelle Zielinski. Projects were entered in 14 different categories that ranged from studying the behavioral traits of service dogs as puppies, to creating algorithms predicting stock market trends, to using powdered sugar in treating honey bee colony collapse disorder. While Sleepy Hollow did not have the most competitors, or the most winners, nearly every Horseman was presented with an award at some level.
Seniors Daniel Moriarty, Clare Johnson, Colin Atkinson, Javiera Morales, and Heather Brown placed fourth in their respective categories, while seniors Katie Brennan and Julia Komorowski and junior Elizabeth Silver placed second in theirs. Seniors Elizabeth Sobolik and Austen Paris, and junior Dominique Marchini each placed first, for projects in cell and molecular biology, engineering, and environmental science, respectively.
Sobolik was also named as an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) finalist. She will move forward and present her research internationally at “the Olympics of science fairs” in May. This competition hosts 1,700 finalists from over 70 countries annually. Sobolik’s project was entitled “Protein Gene Therapy: Correcting Juvenile Hemochromatosis Using Targeted Delivery of the BMP Co-receptor HJV.”
“I developed a protein-based therapy to treat an autosomal-recessive iron overload disorder (juvenile hemochromatosis) that is potentially safer and more targeted -which means fewer side effects- than gene editing,” she said.
Sobolik attended Intel ISEF last year in Los Angeles, California, where she won the Anti-Vivisection Award along with a monetary award for her project, “Generating iPSCs from Human Adipocyte Tissue for Differentiation in Nociceptors.” When asked about returning to this prestigious event, Sobolik replied, “It’s an absolute honor to get to go back. Last year everything was new and huge and intimidating but also really fun. I think this year will be the same.”
Marchini will also be traveling to Intel ISEF as a finalist. She will be presenting her project, “Recycling Hair: Flocculation as an Alternative Method of Assembling Hair Fibers for the Recovery and Recycle of Crude Oil.” She studied the effect of hair on extracting crude oil from the environment. “It’s an honor to be able to compete,” said Marchini.
Sobolik and Marchini will be attending the Intel ISEF in Pittsburgh from May 10 to May 15.