Millburn High School Students Present Science Research Findings at 10th Annual Symposium

MILLBURN, NJ - The award-winning Science Research Program at Millburn High School hosted its 10th Annual Symposium for the public on Monday. It marked the conclusion of another year of research and a final high school presentation for the seniors.

Held in the high school library this year, the program commenced with presentations by seniors Christopher Shan, Adam ElShaer, Alec Farid, and Eugene Zeng. They have been developing their research since the sophomore year and have participated in various symposia and competitions, including the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, the Intel Science Talent Search, and the International Science and Engineering Fair.

Not only do all the students share a strong passion for science, but are already making novel discoveries in their areas of interest. The four graduating seniors plan to continue some form of research next year in college and shared with us individual experiences that made their time memorable.

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Shan’s project “Iodine Interactions with Modified N3-type Dyes used in Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells” focuses on the optimization of solar cells. His research found that increased binding of iodine to the dye complexes lowers solar cell efficiencies, potentially discouraging future use of alkyl chains and long dye length in the dye complexes.

Shan recalls with a grin his most memorable experience: “Alex and I won a bag at JSHS [Junior Science and Humanities Symposium].”

ElShaer’s research “Development of a Tetracycline-Inducible Chimeric Antigen Receptor for Adoptive T Cell Therapy for the Treatment of B-Cell Leukemia” is making important strides in the emerging field of immunotherapy for cancer treatment.

“Science research was an amazing experience for me, and it was probably one of the best things about going to Millburn High School. We’ll always remember the great friends we made in this amazing class,” ElShaer enthusiastically commented.

Farid has made advancements in the production of graphene. His research “Production of Supercapacitors from Liquid-Phase Exfoliated Graphene” may provide longer lasting and more efficient energy sources for our daily electronic devices.

Farid vividly recalls a memorable experience: “The one thing I found most memorable about the science research experience was stepping into the lab I worked at for the first time. I had just completed my training and it was officially the first day in the lab. I couldn’t wait to put on a lab coat.”

Zeng has been investigating “Trends of Adolescent Facebook Profile Use and Self-Perception by Grade and Gender” and using Millburn High School students as his research subjects.  His research demonstrated that there were significant differences in a student’s self-perception and profile use between genders, but not by grade levels.  

“Personally, my greatest takeaway from Science Research is learning to connect with people. After being stuck for three years together, we are supportive of one another like family,”  Zeng said reflectively.

He continued, “ Some of the other wonderful things I’ve learned through the Science Research course include: independently researching a topic I’m passionate about; honing your own unique ideas; obtaining results and drawing conclusions; and never giving up no matter how bleak the outcome seems. It’s an incredibly time-consuming process, but at the end of three years I can say that it was worth every bit of effort I put in.”

The Science Research Program initiated in 2003 when Dr. Paul Gilmore, a current chemistry teacher at Millburn High School, decided to provide an opportunity for serious students interested in the sciences to gain an early foundation in research. Starting in their sophomore year, accepted students begin to search for a topic in their field of interest and reach out to potential mentors. By the beginning of junior year, almost all of them will have found a lab to conduct their original research. Relinquishing summer vacations, camps, and long trips for two months of dedicated research, students are ready to present their findings in a twenty-page paper by their senior year.

“Science research is a class where you can do research of your choice. I wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn otherwise about canine lymphoma, which is a cancer of the blood lymphatic system in dogs,” stated sophomore Arundhati Johri. This summer, she will perform her research at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine.

After ten years, the spirit and enthusiasm of the teachers continue to make the classroom and research experience a positive one for students. Dr. Gilmore and biology teachers Mrs. Gina Cocchiaro and Mr. Christopher Schilp are the program advisors. They are delighted everyday by the novel ideas and developments that each young researcher might bring to the table.

“I would say we had another productive year in science research. Our senior members embraced the sophomores and served as positive role models so that they may succeed. I would also say that we have some exciting projects that the students are beginning to work on or continuing to work on. I am excited to see the results next year,” said Mrs. Cocchiaro, an advisor for the students.

The evening concluded with poster presentations by the juniors and sophomores. This year’s topics included areas of biological research such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, organ regeneration, and the MRSA virus. Other students are studying complex algorithms in graph theory or the development of silicon-carbon composites in lithium-based batteries.

The juniors consist of Ian Jaffe, Alex Lin, Allison Mak, Anish Naik, David Neiman, Jan Piotrowiak, Uma Sarwadnya, Michael Tang, Helen Wang, and Michelle Zhan. The sophomore class includes Harrison Chalnick, Jasmine Gulati, Arundhati Johri, Arielle Kasnetz, Brittany Strear, John Soughan, Abir Thakur, and Calvin Wang.

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