An Insight Into the Seniors of Science Research

Posted by

By Sage Rochetti, Staff Writer

Brandon Sirof

Brandon Sirof, Senior at New Paltz High School

Why did you decide to join science research?

I’ve always been interested in STEM and science, and it’s just a very unique opportunity to study something I’m interested in versus just the subjects we have to learn in school. Also, the opportunity to work with professionals and really getting the experience of reaching out to professors and getting college experience in high school was intriguing to me. Maybe that wasn’t exactly what I was thinking when I was a sophomore, but I think that’s what interested me, and looking back those are the main things that got me into the class.

What is your project?

I’m studying the effect of playing position on cheating in high school athletes. So really the effect of offensive playing position and defensive playing position, and what the difference is in their judgments of cheating, their morality, and how likely they are to cheat in sports.

How did you go about studying playing position and cheating?

I used questionnaires to gather data. I found pre-made questionnaires, validated in past studies by other researchers in the field, and I delivered them to students in New Paltz High School, and a few soccer players from other schools. They gave me their answers, and with my mentor, Dr. Corwin Senko, I did data analysis to see the moral reasoning levels of these athletes, because if they had low moral reasoning they were more likely to cheat. I found a slight correlation between defensive players with performance avoidance orientation and having the greatest probability of cheating than all other athletes.

Biggest struggle with your study or the hardest part of the class?

Probably getting enough participants for the study. As many students exist in the school, only a small number of them actually participate in sports with an offense and a defense, so it was very challenging no matter how many people, or how many classes I could survey, to get people that fit the necessary requirements to be used in the study. 

What was your experience presenting your research at the regional symposium?

It was a little bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but I think I was really well prepared by Mr. Seweryn through presenting through all the years, and prior to the presentation going through it over and over again, making sure there were no errors, and practicing it for myself, in front of the class, in front of my family, so I felt very well prepared, because I really worked hard going into the presentation. 

What are the implications of your research? 

Since cheating is such a pervasive issue in sports, this study can be a step toward understanding why athletes cheat and then, with that, attempt to reduce how much it happens. Coaches, officials, and even the athletes themselves can use this study to further their understanding of the mentality of athletes with cheating.

After this 3 year experience, do you think research science is a career path you are interested in?

It is definitely a career path I am interested in. I’m right now supposed to be majoring in biomedical engineering, and I see research as being one of the primary career outlooks for me right now.

Lora Johnson

Lora Johnson, senior at New Paltz High School

Why did you decide to join science research?

I decided to join science research because I have interests in STEM that go beyond the science classes offered at the school. Science research was a way to pursue my interests.

What is your project and how did you go about studying it?

So my project is about microorganisms that live in extreme salt conditions. They’re called haloarchaea and they can survive in extreme salt conditions, but they can also survive multiple extreme conditions at once. they’re found in Antarctica where it’s cold and salty or dry and salty, or even hot and salty, so multiple extreme environments. 

This means that they’re good models for the sort of life that we could look for on other planets because Mars, for example, is extremely dry and has lots of radiation, so the organisms that would live there would be organisms that could survive these extreme environments. 

So for my project I was looking at these organisms and then a specific property where they can be preserved inside salt crystals so they’re living in salt water. Crystal forms and a little pocket of saltwater gets stuck inside and the microorganisms become trapped in there. They can survive there for millions of years. You can then dissolve the salt crystals and grow them out. 

So for my project specifically, I was given 4 salt samples from the waste isolation pilot plant in New Mexico and I dissolved the four samples in their own little beakers and kept them warm for five weeks and then I looked at samples from all of them under microscope and I could see little cells moving around which supports previously found evidence that says you can preserve these organisms like this for 250 million. My reference point is that early dinosaurs were alive 230 million years ago, so these are older than the dinosaurs.  

Biggest struggle with your study or the hardest part of the class?

Hardest part of my project for me was disruptions because of COVID. My mentors are professors down at the University of Maryland, and so I’ve only ever communicated with them or interacted with them online through emails or zoom. It’s great that we have the resources to be able to do that, but also there’s a lot that gets lost and like there’s a whole element of interacting in person that you miss, so that was rough. And then also obviously I couldn’t go down and work in their lab, so I had to find a lab facility up here, which has worked out really well, but it would have been just like a completely different experience to get to actually work with them in person. 

What was your experience presenting your research at the regional symposium?

The regional symposium was a zoom call this year which was sad because we got to practice in person in the class, and I enjoy getting to actually interact with my audience. I would have preferred if it was in person, but besides that it was a great experience. It was great to get to talk with the judges and then they give you feedback, which I originally didn’t know that you were going to get, so that was really nice.

What are the implications of your research? 

It has to do with the field of astrobiology. My study pertains to how we are looking for life on other planets. Specifically a very current implication is looking for signs of past life on Mars preserved in salt crystals. The rover currently on Mars has the ability to take surface samples, and there are identified salt deposits all across the surface of Mars, so this could bring the next discovery there.

After this 3 year experience, do you think research science is a career path you are interested in?

Definitely. There’s certainly struggles with it, and in this experience particularly, as a young student, I had to interact with all these professionals, there was a communication gap and a knowledge gap, but it’s definitely something I want to keep pursuing. Getting to actually work in the lab, grow things, look at things and actually experience science firsthand, that is something I want to do for the rest of my life.