Hewlett students competing in high-level science contests


Six Hewlett High School students are have received high honors in two prestigious science competitions.

Senior Sophia Lamisfer and juniors Bharvi Chavre and Brandon Weiss are finalists in the 2018 New York State Science Congress contest, after competing in the Long Island Science Congress last month. The trio will present their research at the University of Buffalo on June 2.

Lamisfer’s project, “Knockdown of SAMP-1 by RNAi Rescues Embryonic Lethality and P granule Distribution in the MBK-2 Background in C. elegans,” focuses on the development and fertility of worm cells. “This is the result of a lot of hard work,” Lamisfer said. “I’ve been in the [science research] program for four years, and with this being my senior year, it’s the end of an era.” Her research was conducted at New York University.

Chavre and Weiss partnered on “Examining the Integrity of Pluronic F127 Hydogels for Prevention of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Utilizing a Novel 3D Printed System to Simulate Spinal Fluid Flow.” Pluronic F127 Hydogels are used to deliver anti-cancer drugs, and are now being considered for use in the spinal cord and for post-surgical treatment. They tested how the flow of spinal fluid impacted the effectiveness of the gels. Their research was conducted at Stony Brook University.

“I learned how to do research as a collaboration and working with a partner,” Chavre said. “I couldn’t have done this without Brandon’s guidance. This was the best experience.”

Juniors Samuel Bogdanov, Chestine Tomas and Weiss are finalists in the Spellman High Voltage Electronics Clean Tech Competition, a global contest that had hundreds of projects submitted from 39 countries. Chavre and junior Julia Grossman were semifinalists.

After 30 semifinalist teams were selected on May 7, the competition was whittled down to 10 finalists a week later. The finals are on July 12 at Stony Brook, and the first-place team will win $10,000 and an invitation to the World Congress on Climate Change Sept. 13-15 in Rome.

The teams had to revise a project that was originally created for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, which was held for the last time last year. “This was a three-year project for Siemens, and we had to find a different contest,” said Dr. Terrence Bissondial, the Hewlett High science teacher who directs the district’s science research program.

Bogdanov, Tomas and Weiss worked on a project to mitigate the increase in soil salinity because of flooding from climate change in coastal regions. The title is “Investigating the role of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid and ELIP1 on Ceratoperis richardii.”

“I really think it’s because of all the work we’re doing,” Bogdanov said of the project’s being chosen for the final round. “We were improving the presentation, and being selected tells me it was a great project, and I’m super proud of it.”

Chavre and Grossman’s project, “Investigating the Effects of Light and Auxin to Remediate the Toxicity of Okadaic Acid on Ceratoperis richardii,” sought to mitigate the phytotoxic effects of algal blooms as a result of climate change.

“We were looking to reduce the acidity that is increasing because of climate change and affects plants life,” Grossman said. Bissondial added that this particularly affects Long Island, as toxic algae blooms cause the brown tides that have been linked to the poisoning of mussels, clams, crabs, oysters, scallops, herring, sardines, marine mammals and birds. Humans are exposed when they eat contaminated shellfish.

These six students, and 15 others from Hewlett High School, were recognized for their scientific achievements at St. Anthony’s High School on May 22.

Weiss said he believes Bissondial’s guidance is the primary reason the students do so well. “It helped to explain the project to Dr. B,” he said, “and that’s how we presented it to the judges and advanced.”

Lamisfer is headed to the Macaulay Honors Program at Hunter College next fall. The juniors will focus on choosing colleges next year. For now they have their sights set on possible majors. For Bogdanov it’s a medical Ph.D. Charve is considering biology and pre-med. Grossman is thinking of earth science or geology. Tomas likes nursing, and Weiss favors theoretical physics.

Though she has another year of high school, Tomas said she was sad that her Hewlett science research career was ending. “As freshmen we looked up to the juniors and seniors, and now it’s the end of our high school science careers,” she said. “I’m disappointed. It happened very suddenly.”