High School Science Research Students Excel in Regional Competition, Advance to States

four students holding awards and wearing medals around their necksBH-BL’s Science Research Program Taps Into Young Scientific Minds

It’s been a successful school year so far for BH-BL high school students who have competed in athletic and fine arts events, and now science competitions. Most recently, four students in the high school’s rigorous Science Research course competed at the Eastern Junior Science & Humanities Regional Symposium where their success secured them all spots at the state competition at UAlbany in late February. In fact, explains Science Research teacher Regina Reals, of the 10 categories at the competition, BH-BL students competed in four–placing first in three areas and second in a fourth.

“These kids worked super hard to prepare for this event and I’m beyond proud of their accomplishments,” adds Reals. “This course and the incredible work they do outside of the classroom with research scientists is something truly unique and valuable.”

The students will present their research (below) to judges at the state competition. Winners of that will advance to the national competition.

Senior Lilly Mertzlufft took first place in Engineering & Technology with her research entitled “An Investigation of Jet Assisted Surface Mounted Actuators in Laminar and Turbulent Boundary Layers.” Mertzlufft has been conducting her research for more than two years with Professor Michael Amitay at the Center for Flow Physics and Control at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). She intends to continue this type of research and study Aerospace Engineering next year in college.

student in a science lab holding a pipetteJunior Emily Pearson took first place in Cell Biology & Neuroscience with her research presentation entitled “Neuroprotective Role of Focused Ultrasound of the Celiac Plexus in a Rat Model of Parkinson’s Disease.” Pearson conducts her research at Albany Medical College (AMC) in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics with Dr. Damian Shin. Much of Pearson’s research is actually being further studied by the AMC lab as a result of her data findings. Pearson has another year of experience to gain in the course, but she has a passion for medical health and will continue her studies in this field after high school.

Senior Jack Stuhlman took first place in Physics & Astronomy with his presentation entitled “N-body Simulation of Binary Dwarf Galaxy Infall and Applications to the Sagittarius Tidal Stream.” Stuhlman conducts his research at RPI with Dr. Heidi Newberg. He, too, is planning to continue his studies in Physics after graduation.

Senior Nicole Boyea took second place in Behavioral Studies for her research entitled “Visible or Invisible Runners? Studying the Effect Reflective Vests Have on Driver Reactions.” Boyea’s multi-year research was conducted with mentor Dr. Justin DeBlauw at Skidmore College. Boyea–an avid runner–has a personal interest in learning about this topic. Nicole plans to double major in Materials & Science Engineering and Music (trumpet performance) in college next year.

The Science Research course, which is an intense, research-based three-year program, began 25 years ago when Reals came to the high school and brought her prior experience and knowledge with such a program to BH-BL. The program has evolved over the years and is affiliated with SUNY Albany where students can earn 12 college credits while in high school. Many students who went through this program over the years have gone on to secure medical degrees, Ph.Ds, and professional doctorates.

This course is all encompassing, adds Reals. Along with conducting high-level research, students must also learn to sharpen other skills, including interpersonal skills needed for communicating and collaborating with their mentors, public speaking skills needed when presenting their research and findings to competition judges, and the writing and communication skills needed to translate their research data findings into written and oral presentations in a format that can be comprehended by those who don’t have the same in depth knowledge that the students have of the subject matter.

“Among the many benefits of this course, the gem is that the sky’s the limit when it comes to selecting a topic to research,” says Reals. “We look for students to join this program who not only have a passion to learn but who also have an intrinsic desire to learn more about a certain field including, science, engineering, and psychology. This program is aimed at providing an outlet for the incredible energy those students possess.”