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Students Thrive in HHS Science Research Program

Almost 80 students are conducting original, authentic research as part of the Harrison High School Science Research Program. Starting in 10th grade Science Research students begin a three-years of independent research in mathematics, life science, physical science, psychology, or the social sciences. Students work with mentors who are experts in their field, maintain a portfolio of their findings, and  present their work at local, regional, national, and international research competitions.  Student work is featured each year at the annual HHS Science Symposium.

Science Research Students Reflect on Their Experiences

Ariella Blackman, 12th Grade

Research Topic: Developing a Model In-Situ Resource Utilization System for Oxygen Sustaining Life Support and Launch Cost Reduction for Mars

Ariella began the Science Research Program sophomore year, because she has always loved science, and thought the program offered an “incredible opportunity to learn about topics that are not typically taught in schools.” Ariella is passionate about human spaceflight, and joining the program has given her the chance to explore this interest further. Ariella was inspired by MOXIE, technology on the Mars Perseverance rover that converts the carbon dioxide of the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. She spoke with several engineers on the MOXIE team, and wanted to design a study that allowed her to contribute to that field. The focus of her research is modeling cost-effective, sustainable life-support systems for human spaceflight to Mars. She has grown plants in various substrate ratios including simulated Martian regolith, potting soil, and biochar, measured various growth parameters, and developed an original mathematical model to calculate oxygen production and the amount of resources needed to support life. Ariella has learned a lot about the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research; her study has required knowledge of botany, soil structure, bacteria, statistics, electricity, chemistry, and more, “Science is often split into fields and taught in separate classes, and it has been amazing to see how all the topics learned in school fit together in so many unexpected ways.”

Julia Carrea, 11th Grade

Research Topic: Using Eye-Tracking Technology to Detect Emotion 

Julia began the Science Research Program sophomore year, because she has always been most interested in science topics and hopes to study medicine in the future. She was eager to design her own study and conduct original research tailored to a topic of interest to her. Julia’s research studied relationships between eye movement data collected during eye-tracking and the empathy levels of people when exposed to various facial differences, specifically to improve the ability for people with Parkinson’s Disease to communicate. She built an eye-tracking device that serves as a prototype for a device that could be used by those who are unable to communicate in conventional ways. Julia chose this research topic because her grandmother has Parkinson's Disease and struggles to communicate due to uncontrollable tremors, slurring words, and lack of facial expression. While researching communication technologies, she discovered eye-tracking technology that tracks the movements of the eyes through the use of invisible infrared light and camera sensors. As a result of her research, Julia built an eye-tracking device with the help of the technology teacher, Mr. D’Alessandro. Through science research experiences, Julia “gained a lot of patience, persistence, and time-management skills,” and learned the importance of setting goals. She also has become a more confident presenter and public speaker.

Lauren Davidson, 12th Grade

Research Title: The Effect of Copper (II) Sulfate Pentahydrate Concentration on Locomotor Activity and Lifespan of Alzheimer's Model Drosophila melanogaster

Lauren began science research in 10th grade, because she enjoyed her science classes and was excited to study topics she  “didn't have the chance to really explore in-depth in class.” Lauren’s research explores how supplementing copper impacts Alzheimer's Disease. She chose this topic because “my grandfather had Alzheimer's and watching his experience with the disease and its impact on my family sparked my interest in studying how to reduce the effects of Alzheimer's.”  Lauren studied the effect of copper on fruit flies and has learned that copper may have an improving effect on Alzheimer's. In addition to learning about the causes of Alzheimer's and current treatment options, Lauren has learned how to navigate and effectively read highly technical scientific articles. Some non-science related skills she has learned are patience and persistence. The research process is a long one that requires a lot of going back, researching, reading existing articles, changing things, and trying again. I learned very quickly that it takes time and patience to conduct good research to get reliable results.

Andre Joubert, 12th Grade

Research Topic: How Human Encroachment on Wildlife Spaces in the KwaZulu-Natal Region on the Eastern Coast of South Africa Affects the Vulnerable Blue Duiker Population

Andre began the Science Research Program in sophomore year, because he “really liked the idea of being able to research topics that interested me….and as a great way to gain experience researching STEM-related topics, learn how to write research papers, and learn how to present my research in front of others.” Andre’s research focus was to understand the impact of human encroachment on wildlife areas on biodiversity in South Africa. Nature and biodiversity have been a huge part of Andre’s culture and life, and he wanted to explore the effects of human development on species that are crucial to his home country of South Africa.  Specifically, he measured how changes in the coastal forest region over time affected the vulnerable Blue Duiker population, a small antelope species that provides necessary services for other species in the ecosystem. Then, he built a mathematical model that predicted the effects of continued human activity in the future. Andre’s research is pertinent; in 2022 government representatives from around the world gathered for the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal to define goals and guidelines to curb nature loss.