Two Five Towns residents will present their scientific research to as many as 14,000 Materials Re-search Society members from over 90 countries at the organization’s fall convention on December 4th. The presentation will be virtual, amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Nava Schein, an elder at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Cities and Rockaway High School, and Amy Sharin, a student at Lawrence High School, conducted advanced research through the Garcia Summer Fellowship Program at Stony Brook University which has been accepted by the prestigious society, whose members represent universities, industry and national laboratories. Their research has an impact on biology, chemistry, engineering and physics.
Schein, a resident of Woodmere, and Sharin, who lives in Atlantic Beach, worked online on separate projects with graduate students from the Garcia Scholars program at Stony Brook. The duo are currently preparing two-minute PowerPoint videos that they will present to convention attendees. Materials engineering researcher and distinguished engineering professor Dr. Miriam Rafailovich has led the Garcia program for 25 years.
âAmy and Nava learned a lot from Garcia’s research experience,â said Rebecca Isseroff, chemistry and science research teacher at Lawrence High School and science research teacher at HAFTR. “It is amazing that given the conditions of restrictions associated with the pandemic, Dr. Rafailovich was able to reinvent the Garcia program and continue to participate in cutting edge scientific research for more than 80 high school students this summer.”
Isseroff explained that submissions are reviewed by top scientists in their fields. “They do not seek to know if it is submitted by a [post-doctoral researcher], a graduate student or a scientific researcher, âshe said. âThey look at the quality of the project itself. High school students do not normally submit to these professional conferences. Therefore, their acceptance means that it is at the level of high quality academic professional research.
Schein studied the effects of partially reduced graphene oxide, a carbon-based substance with unusual electronic properties, on enzymes, building on previous research by HAFTR graduate Jonathan Lederer. âI guess at first I was nervous, doing meaningful research that has an impact, and not being in the lab every day – that was difficult,â said Schein, who led independent research projects. in high school.
She thanked Isseroff for helping her collect and analyze the data. âIt was difficult to present the data through Facetime,â Schein added, âbut it was truly a great experience.â
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania are on her shortlist of colleges for next fall, she said, as she hopes to major in materials science or engineering.
By studying the effects of pH on onion exchange membranes, which can be used to improve the performance of hydrogen fuel cells and can also be applied to water desalination, Sharin discovered that the change of a single pH unit had a significant effect on the durability of membranes. The goal is to find the best pH for maximum membrane resistance.
âI learned the process, how everything works and confirmed that I wanted to do engineering and do research at the university,â Sharin said of the experience. âIt was really amazing. I didn’t expect this to happen. Few high school students are so lucky.
Sharin’s top two college picks are Cornell and Stanford. She may specialize in chemical engineering, but she said she was open to all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Rafailovich describes high school students as the “canaries of the coal mine,” but instead of detecting risks, they help identify future research. âHigh school students are a lot more tuned in to what’s hot, they’re a lot more tech-savvy, and they think outside the box,â she said. âWhat they lack are the basic tools, because they are just learning. They have the ideas that are cool, and we give them the tools, and it works really well.
This year’s summer schedule was particularly tough, Rafailovich said, due to the pandemic, which forced a hands-on schedule to go virtual, with Stony Brook staff wearing GoPro cameras and live streaming lab work.
Then, on July 28, Tropical Storm Isaias necessitated the postponement of a symposium that the students had organized. It took place four days later, but Long Island attendees, she said, had to hunt down Wi-Fi reception in places like a McDonald’s parking lot.
Along with research, the program focuses on networking and building friendships. âIt was very difficult,â Rafailovich said. âWe didn’t see each other physically. Some people were in different states, others in different countries. It was a challenge.