Hewlett High School sophomores reach state science congress finals with silver research


All that glitters is silver for three Hewlett High School sophomores were named finalists in the State Science Congress Competition and will present their research in Syracuse on June 9.

Deniz Artan, Darsh Chavre and Benjamin Zelikoff competed as a team in the 2024 Long Island Science Congress Competition in Garden City on April 15, with a project that explored the impact of silver ions and nanoparticles on plant cells that is inspiring real-world application.

“I wasn’t really too knowledgeable to begin with,” Zelikoff acknowledged. “I really like silver now. It’s a cool element.”

He, Artan and Chavre joined forces in Terrance Bissoondial’s science research class, where they were assigned a research topic.

“We worked with Dr. B through the whole process,” Artan said. “He taught us all different lab procedures.”

Using research journals and experimentation, they discovered silver’s ability to shrink plant cells and harm plant growth.

“It’s real-world stuff — it’s major,” Artan said of the silver impacting other areas through contamination. “Landfills are full of this stuff. It reaches streams through landfills.”

They exhibited their findings at the Long Island competition, at the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Reckson Center, last month.

“Dr. B, he asks us a boatload of questions,” Chavre said of the preparation process. “We knew from there if we needed to research more.”

The group began working on the project last September, but decided against submitting it to the Molloy University Science fair, in March, because they wanted to develop it further. In the Long Island Science Competition, they were ready to vie for a spot in the finals.

On the day of the competition, Artan fell ill and was unable to participate, but Chavre and Zelikoff felt that they had so thoroughly rehearsed their presentation together that they knew one another’s talking points by heart.

“I’m so proud of them,” Artan said of her teammates still placing in the competition. “They really helped get us this.”

Chavre focused on data analysis for the project.

“It’s one thing to make sense of data plots and charts that you find online,” he said in explaining how the group presented their findings, but it is even more rewarding to understand the statistics you are reading, Chavre said. “Being able to make that connection is so important.”

Zelikoff, who was taking part in his first competition, Artan and Chavre both experienced science competition presenters, said he was nervous about presenting the project to the judges, who were teachers at the participating schools, but his nerves faded as they began.

“You realize they’re people, too,” Zelikoff said. “Dr. Bissoondial, he’s a bit tough, but he really helped.”

The three learned that they had advanced to the state competition in early May, in Bissoondial’s science class.

“Our immediate reacting was just a jump of joy,” Artan recounted. “We literally jumped out of our seats.”

The team members are now refining the research as they prepare to present it in Syracuse.

“I think that there’s a lot more improvements and developments to be made,” Chavre said.

Artan explained that they have made use of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a database of peer-reviewed research papers.

“Winning another award in states, that’s our goal at this point,” he said.

The Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology, in Syracuse, will host the state competition.