For Jack Mango, John Jay High School senior and physics student, life is all about balance, whether it’s his research on a Nobel Prize-winning physics project or supporting the local community through his work revamping local parks.
Born in Rutherford, N.J., Jack moved to the Katonah Lewisboro School District when he was 6 years old. His love of science started while at Lewisboro Elementary School when he read a book called “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100” by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.
In the book, Kaku describes some of the possible inventions of the next 100 years. For Jack, reading this book and seeing things that were at the heart of sci-fi movies as actual possibilities really “blew (his) mind away” and sparked his interest.
During his time in elementary and middle school, Jack entered many science fairs. He also took the time to read as much literature on science and physics as possible. However, it would be his time at John Jay High School that would really propel his entrée into the scientific world. At John Jay, Jack started the science research track which would eventually lead him to physics by way of astronomy, especially when he discovered astrophysics.
Jack’s talent and hard work were recognized early by JJHS faculty, such as physics teacher Daniel Longhurst.
“Jack has been an outstanding student...He comes in with a highly focused energy and can solve just about anything I can throw at him. He’s an incredibly hard-working and dedicated student who manages his time well and takes his education very seriously.”
Beyond his talent and dedication, Jack is also known for his support of fellow students.
“In science research, he takes the initiative to help out the sophomores and juniors in the course. He reads their abstracts and gives helpful and thoughtful feedback on their presentations and posters. Whenever other students have a question about science research, Jack is their go-to guy,” said John Jay physics teacher Frank Noschese.
For his science research project, Jack decided to focus on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which won a Nobel Prize for physics in 2017. As part of his project, Jack wrote a Python script that would improve the calibration of software used for further research. Last summer, he conducted his research using a supercomputer at Caltech with his mentor, Dr. Aaron Viets, an assistant professor of physics at Concordia University, Wis.
When Jack first contacted Viets regarding his project, Viets was “a bit surprised to see a high school student willing to pursue a project in such a challenging and technical field.” However, once Jack got to work, Viets noticed that “the quality of his work [was] exceptional, akin to that of a college researcher.”
Not only was his work exceptional, Jack was able to overcome a learning curve which “required an understanding of concepts from control theory, digital signal processing, and computing.”
Due to Jack’s dedication, he “now knows how to use a computer cluster, a rare skill for a person his age.” Though most remarkable was that “due to his fast learning, Jack was able to make a tangible contribution to a worldwide research project that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics. Jack’s project contributes to the calibration of gravitational-wave data, and it will make the calibration more robust and less prone to errors caused by human mistakes…The project continues to be developed and will soon be implemented in the production of calibrated gravitational-wave data.”
Viets said working with Jack was “a refreshing experience.”
In addition to his work in the classroom, Jack has been involved in the Science Olympiad. In this competition, students compete in events that pertain to specific scientific areas such as earth science, biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. Each year, more than 8,000 student teams compete in 450 hosted tournaments. Most recently, Jack participated in the circuit lab, astronomy, water quality, solar power and machine events.
When Jack isn’t focused on science, he can be found indulging his other passions: running and the outdoors. Jack has been a member of the track and cross country teams throughout high school. Drawn to the distance events this year, Jack broke the 19-minute mark for the 5K event. Jack has also been a member of the Boy Scouts since elementary school and earned his Eagle Scout rank in January.
For his Eagle Scout project, Jack built informational signs for Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. With the Scouts, Jack has also volunteered in the community in numerous ways, delivering packages to veterans, cleaning up local roadways and participating in the Memorial Day fair.
Peter Hadlock, Scoutmaster for Troop 1 Lewisboro, said that “Jack encouraged all kids to be a part of the troop and [to] feel proud of themselves. He is a positive role model for his peers, and a great contributor to our community.” Hadlock also credits Jack for his “work in many projects in local parks and preserves, [and for serving as an] environmental steward ensuring a healthier planet for future generations.”
Jack is also involved in leadership roles within the John Jay community as a member of its Campus Congress and the National Honors Society. As a member of Campus Congress, he lends his voice to issues that affect the school. In addition to all of his community service and campus-based activities, Jack works part time job as a barista at Ross Bread + Coffee in Ridgefield, where he also bakes bread and pastries.
Preparing for the future, Jack plans to major in astrophysics. He has already been accepted to a few colleges but has yet to make his final decision. Beyond college, he would like to continue his education with another professional degree, perhaps even obtain his doctorate in physics. Once his education is complete, Jack foresees a future working work in research in either a university setting or in private industry.
Looking back at his time at John Jay, Jack credits the science research program and his fellow students for making his experience memorable. Jack said that the science research program “is a wonderful way to acclimate students to a professional level of research, because without it [the process] would have seemed like a lot more of a daunting task.” He goes on to state that the “older students have served as mentors” and his peers have been “supportive, forming a close-knit group.”
Jack is the son of Jill and Larry Mango. Jill is a vice president of SpinLab Communications, a Los Angeles-based entertainment industry PR firm. Larry works for Castle Lanterra Properties, a real estate investment firm, where he is vice president of Asset Management.