Much More than a Medal

Photo: Tarrytown Union Free School District

Students and teachers agree the real prize of Sleepy Hollow High School’s Science Research Program is the experience.

When students sign up for the Science Research Program their sophomore year, they probably don’t fully know what to expect for the next three years. Students are given the autonomy to choose a topic that speaks to them and empowered to work independently to reach benchmarks and see their research project to completion. From choosing a topic to securing a mentor, reviewing academic journals, and presenting their findings, the program could seem overwhelming to some. But for those students who see it to completion, the journey is the reward.

In speaking with Seniors, Julia Gold and Ryan Gosset, both admitted that they originally signed up because they knew that it would give them a “leg up” in the future and look good on their resume. Now, having completed their research, both students wholeheartedly advocate for the program and attribute much of their growth as students to skills they gained throughout.

Julia shared that “Everyone and anyone should take it even if you don’t like science. It’s not just about science. There are so many more skill sets that you learn. The great thing about this course is that you can make it about what you’re passionate about.”

Ryan agreed, adding, “The skills you gain unintentionally through taking the course will help you for the rest of your working life.” He shared that his writing and presentation skills have improved through the program and noted that many of his teachers are quick to associate his level of organization and presentation skills with his participation in the Science Research Program.

Science Research teacher Michele Zielinski observed a tremendous amount of growth in her students. She shared that through communicating with their mentors, her students have not only learned the importance of advocating for themselves but have also, “enhanced their communication skills to articulate their needs.”

A major milestone of the program is participating in the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair which hosts over 530 high school students from more than 30 schools in Westchester.

At the event, Julia earned the American Psychological Association Award for her evaluation of “The use of perception of laughter among high school students with and without social anxiety.” Her project was inspired by an interview on the Hidden Brain podcast with a scientist who was researching laughter. Julia was drawn to the topic because laughter is “something that everyone could connect to” and is not heavily researched. After three years of work, she was eager and excited to present her findings at WESEF. When reflecting on the results of her hard work, Julia shared that she was proud “of all of the awards that I’ve won,” but equally if not more proud of how she has “grown as a student.”

From the beginning, Ryan knew that he wanted his project to focus on sports. His research focused on the notion of a “home-field advantage” in professional sports. By reviewing ten seasons of data across the MLB, NBA, and NFL, Ryan sought to learn if it affected the outcome of a game and how it differs across sports. By the end of his junior year, Ryan had felt like he was “done” with his research but Zielinski encouraged him to keep digging. Ryan was up for the challenge and expanded his research to include individual players in addition to his review of professional teams.

Zelinski proudly described how her students “kept pushing” and increased their depth of analysis right through to the end. “Science doesn’t stop. It doesn’t end with ‘I determined this.’ There is always a different way of looking at questions. When pushed, these students really rose to the challenge of finding a new way to investigate their questions.”

This year, Sleepy Hollow H.S. had 10 students from its Science Research Program compete in the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair, with all taking home an award or honorable mention.

  • Julia Gold – American Psychological Association Award
  • Isabella Levine – Ingenuity in Math, Physics, and Astronomy Award
  • Wave Waldman – Creative Approach to Research Award and 3rd place in the Medicine and Health category
  • Jai Weitzen – Office of Naval Research Award
  • Dmitri Wild-Arons– Momentive Solutions for a Sustainable World Award and 3rd place in the Biochemistry category
  • Ben Zifchock – Momentive Solutions for a Sustainable World Award
  • Cynthia Cai, Ryan Gosset, Lily Liflander, and Nicole Vaughn were named honorable mentions

The final stage for the Science Research students is in the auditorium of their high school. On May 17, each senior will have four minutes to present their research during the annual Science Symposium. We wish our seniors the best of luck at the symposium and with all of their future endeavors.

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