CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Chemistry provides “the ability to look at the world, the universe at a microscopic scale and be able to see the fundamentality of things,” says Guy Pillon, John Jay High School senior, chemist and Science Olympian.
Born in Manhattan, Guy moved to Brooklyn where he attended preschool and kindergarten. It was here, in the heart of New York City, where Guy’s love of chemistry started. While living in the city, he would go to the grocery store and head straight to the cleaning aisle. He would walk up and down the aisle studying the various labels on the bottles, and was fascinated by the chemicals' names and combinations.
After moving to Katonah in the first grade, Guy attended both Katonah Elementary School and John Jay Middle School. When he arrived at John Jay High, his interest in chemistry deepened. In his sophomore year, he became part of the Science Research Program.
In his first year in the program, Guy stumbled upon organic chemistry. He was instantly intrigued by transformations and how organic structures interact. As his preference toward organic chemistry grew, Guy started taking honors chemistry with Emilia Camporese. He also began learning under the guidance of science research instructor Dr. Linda Rachele Burke.
Burke, who teaches AP environmental science and science research, would remain a foundational presence during Guy’s time at John Jay. When asked about Guy, she says that he “demonstrates all that one could ask of a 21st century student: a passion for his interests along with [the] commitment to doing the best that he is able.”
At the end of his sophomore year, Guy started entering his research projects in science competitions. As part of these competitions, Guy had to present his projects and display his research to judges, educators and other science students. Over the years, he has regularly entered the regional Westchester Science and Engineering Fair and the Westchester-Rockland Science and Engineering Fair. As a result of his performances at these competitions, Guy earned a medal at the regional and state level for the New York State Science Olympiad.
In addition to the various science competitions, Guy participates in the annual John Jay High School Science Research Symposium, which takes place in April. At the Science Research Symposium, students present their research to the John Jay community. This event gives students the ability to develop their presentation skills and discuss the research they have been working on throughout the year. It was this very symposium, during his freshmen year, that was one of Guy’s most memorable experiences at John Jay, solidifying his interest in chemistry research and shaping his future both in high school and beyond.
When not at John Jay, Guy spends much of his time at Hunter College. There, he conducts his research in the labs of the chemistry department. For the last few years, Guy has worked with Professor Shengping Zheng on a new synthesis of a hydrocarbon called cubane. Guy finds this research fascinating due to the novel properties and applications that are possible with cubane.
In addition to his work at Hunter College, Guy started his senior internship at Yale this past spring. On a typical day during his Yale internship, Guy spends hours working, researching and experimenting in the lab. This internship requires a high level of commitment from Guy as he often leaves his house at 7 a.m. and doesn’t return until almost 11 p.m. At Yale, Guy is working under the supervision of Professor Patrick Holland and is involved in a project focused on a new catalyst. Guy’s time at Yale will extend through the summer.
When not in the lab, Guy can be found indulging his creative side as a musician in the John Jay High School music program. He plays the oboe in the wind ensemble and symphonic orchestra. Guy also plays the baritone and saxophone in two jazz bands. In addition to his grueling lab hours, he performs in numerous concerts throughout the year, usually around six, as well as other smaller performances and variety shows.
In the fall, Guy will be heading to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue a degree in chemistry. He is eagerly looking forward to the research opportunities that will be available to him especially in the area of strained hydrocarbon chemistry. After college, he plans on going straight to graduate school. After graduate school, Guy hopes to land a post-doctoral position that will eventually lead him to become a principal investigator at a university.
With a bright future ahead of him and his time at John Jay coming to a close, Guy reflects on his John Jay experience which made him the chemist that he is today. As he prepares to leave, he hopes that his "contributions helped further the science research program” for the next generation of students.
Guy lives in South Salem with his father, Craig Pillon, an architect, and owner of Pillon Associates Architects.
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