MILLBURN, NJ — Even though schools are shut down indefinitely in response to COVID-19, Millburn students are still working hard, as exemplified by Millburn High School sophomore Ryan Park’s first place win in the Jersey Shore Junior Science Symposium (JSJSS).

According to the JSJSS, its goal “is to promote research and experimentation in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics at the high school level, adn to publicly recognize students for outstanding achievement.”

High School students across New Jersey submit their abstracts and research papers to Ocean County College for evaluation. The best papers are chosen and their writers announced as finalists. These finalists go on to compete in the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) by presenting their papers to a wide audience.

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The JSHS describes itself as a “U.S. Army, Navy, and Air-Force sponsored STEM competition, which promotes original research and experimentation in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Park, being chosen as a finalist, has earned one of the coveted spots to present at the symposium, which will take place from April 15th-17th. Due to the current restrictions on meetings of large groups, this year’s symposium will take place virtually.

The research Park conducted entitled, “X-Net: A Deep Convolutional Neural Model for X-Ray Threat Detection” was facilitated by the Science Research Program at Millburn High School.

One of the advisors, Dr. Susan Arrigoni described the program as “a three-year course of study, sophomore through senior year, and provides students with an understanding of research methodology as well as fosters inquiry and communication skills. Students gain knowledge and develop abilities while studying a selected area of interest in subjects spanning Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and the Social Sciences among others.”

Through the program, Park spent weeks deliberating and researching potential topics deciding to write his paper on X-rays. He combined his interests in computer science and machine learning to address the inefficiencies of airport security. Put simply, Park created an algorithm to improve the quality of detection through X-ray scanners.

Arrigoni explained that Park’s work has potential impact far beyond the classroom. “The work all of the students undertake as part of the Research Program contributes to the advancement of scientific understanding and Ryan’s work is an outstanding example.”

“As a teacher, it is truly wonderful to see students working in a subject area that inspires them to delve deeper, identify important gaps their research may fill and seek creative solutions to a complex problem,” she added. “Students have the drive, commitment and vision to change the world. I take great pleasure in guiding the students through the research process as their knowledge grows and ideas emerge.”

Park also views his research as more than just a contest submission. His motivation is to, as Arrigoni put it, “change the world.”

“To me, research and helping the community are inseparable. I hope that my research can someday be used to improve people's lives,” Park explained.

Park is on the path to make his hopes a reality. To watch an oral presentation of his paper, visit the following link: