The Home of Midwood Science Research

24/7 Lecture: Multitasking against academic performance and SMD

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

Cartoon zombie pursuing a cell phone

24 seconds: When it comes to multitasking, the use of social media is increasing among adolescents. The reliance on social media causes adolescents to experience more online activity, leading to social media addiction known as Social Media Disorder (SMD). Frequent media multitasking is disadvantageous on adolescents' academic performance. It has shown to be continuously distracting since the individual's attention is on the media while performing the academic task, causing frequent switching between the primary task and the media. Ultimately, this constant switching results in poor performance and hinders cognitive memory. When adolescents often participate in media multitasking, they become habitual to the continuous shift between the media and non-media related activities at hand and eventually deprive their ability to concentrate. The correlation between the motivations for media use among adolescents, and the development of addiction raises concerns on its impact on how they go about their daily activities.

7 Words: Do your homework, you social media zombie!

Kelly Guan (Class of 2020)

24/7 Lecture: COVID-19 and mental health

Posted on Sunday, April 12, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

The mind as a puzzle

24 seconds: Mental health problems among Americans have increased dramatically in recent years, especially among the youth. Various factors such as child development which occur in the context of family, peers, school relations, and culture influence mental health. These factors play an important role in the psychological and social adjustment of adolescents. It is important to address mental health problems to spread awareness about it and further analyze the reasons for the increase in the rate of mental health problems. Research on mental health has proven to be necessary especially with the recent outbreak of COVID-19. The virus has not only impacted the United States financially, but it has also led to stress, fear, depression, and anxiety amongst Americans. During these times, it is necessary to focus on mental health as it has severe impacts on one's thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and overall well-being.

7 words: Don't let COVID-19 ruin your mental health.

Jessica Lin (Class of 2020)

Quarantine Blog: School lunch to the rescue

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2020 by for Quarantine Blog.

In light of the rapid spread and dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, Mayor DeBlasio still fought to keep NYC public schools open until it was absolutely necessary. The humongous school system not only helped keep track of minors throughout the boroughs, giving parents time to work, but it also kept millions of children and families fed with nutritious meals each day. Now that the official lockdown has begun, these meals are the only thing I leave my home for. I never expected to rely on the school system, and as I walk to my old elementary school it's strange to see how so much could change within a month. Just a few weeks ago, there was a kind crossing guard and now I'm not allowed into the school building so a security guard has to pass me the meals for my siblings and I.

Back home, eating the nostalgia-filled lunches with my family makes me think of the last time I had one, two years ago. It's as if I'm sitting in the school cafeteria with my family eating pretzels and PBJ sandwiches on the nights my parents can't cook dinner. These meals have brought my family together in vulnerable times in the past and will continue to until this virus is controlled.

Defne Sener (Class of 2020)

The contents of several school lunches displayed on a table

24/7 Lecture: Parental bonding

Posted on Thursday, April 9, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

Parent and child watching a cartoon on a laptop computer

24 seconds: How a child is raised can heavily impact the rest of their lives. Parental bonding nurtures the mentality of an individual, and as a result contributes towards how one perceives themselves. There are generally 3 categories of parenting including authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive, which cover a wide range of commitment levels. People from different backgrounds are often raised differently, which in turn can affect how well individuals bond with their parents. This is not only affected by individual ethics, but varying environmental factors may contribute to these differences as well. In most cases, the more a parental figure bonds with their child, their body awareness, and in turn, their ability to recognize bodily cues increases. In addition to this, the child often becomes more in control of their mind and emotions as they approach young adulthood.

7 words: Building connections can encourage greater mental health.

Ashley Chin (Class of 2020)

24/7 Lecture: Aluminum-sulfur batteries

Posted on Thursday, April 9, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

24 seconds: Al-S (aluminum-sulfur) batteries are a promising candidate for the next generation of energy storage devices. Unlike lithium-ion batteries that are commonly used in portable devices such as smartphones, Al-S batteries can hold more charge, are capable of enduring more charge cycles without losing effectiveness, and have less tendency to explode. They also has a big cost advantage since aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust so extraction will be way less expensive than it is for lithium. Although still in the development phase, significant progress has been made.

7 words: Aluminum-sulfur is your next iPhone battery.

Hong Wei Chen (Class of 2020)

Test cell
Al-S test cell built by Midwood Science seniors Hong Wei Chen and Kevin Ng

24/7 Lecture: Sir Charles Wyville Thomson

Posted on Saturday, April 4, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

24 seconds: One important figure in Ocean Science is Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830–1882), a Scottish historian and marine zoologist. In his book The Depths of the Sea, he details his expeditions aboard the HMS Lightning and HMS Porcupine, discovering that animal life existed below 650 fathoms (1200 meters) and that deep-sea temperatures varied considerably. More famously, Thomson is known for being the chief scientist aboard the HMS Challenger. Under his supervision, the vessel traveled 70,000 nautical miles and cataloged over 4,000 unknown species. On March 23, 1875, Thomson and his crew recorded a sounding 4,475 fathoms deep in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Through modern soundings and later expeditions, scientists have discovered that this area is actually the southern end of the Marianas Trench, 6,012 fathoms deep (10,994 m), and the deepest point of the Earth. Out of respect for Thomson and his crew's accomplishments, this area is now known as the Challenger's Deep.

7 Words: Thomson discovered new ocean depths and species.

Idrees Ilahi (Class of 2020)

Sir Charles Wyville Thomson. Stipple engraving by C.H. Jeens, 1876.

24/7 Lecture: Menhaden

Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

Snowy egret grabbing menhaden out of the water

24 seconds: Menhaden (a.k.a. "Bunker"), a small filter-feeding species of fish, have long been exploited in NYC waters through the use of purse seine nets that encircle and capture entire schools. Along with being a major prey species for a variety of marine organisms, menhaden are used as bait and to create fish meal, a highly processed food for livestock. Recent legislation in New York State banned the use of purse seines to protect menhaden, allowing for the return of wildlife such as whales, striped bass, and seabirds to New York waters.

7 words: Conservation is best achieved through legislative action.

Tristan Ene (Class of 2020)

A school of menhaden

24/7 Lecture: Forest communities

Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

24 seconds: Though one would not necessarily associate the word "community" with trees, there is strong evidence to suggest a lively community exists within the world of trees. Unlike humans who communicate through senses, trees communicate through fungal networks that interconnect with their roots. These networks allow trees to send food, water, and distress signals to other trees. If an insect starts eating the leaves of a tree, the tree slowly kicks into survival mode, releasing toxins to make the leaves bitter and sending signals through the fungal networks to nearby trees to do the same. The fungi even find sources of mineral nutrients in the soil for the tree to consume. However, the relationship between trees and fungi is not one-sided. The fungi demands the trees share the sugar it creates through photosynthesis. The fungal network is crucial to enabling the Wood Wide Web, as it transports these daily conversations throughout the forest. This healthy exchange is shown to increase the resilience of the forest as a whole.

7 words: Diverse forests are better at weathering storms.

Suraiya Knoja (Class of 2020)

Looking out the rear window of a car at a forest

24/7 Lecture: Remote learning

Posted on Monday, March 30, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

24 seconds: Being that New York City is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo made the decision to close the largest school system in the nation — the NYC Department of Education (DOE). With this, students and teachers have resorted to remote learning through media platforms such as Google Classroom, Zoom, and Skype. This online transition has faced a few bumps in the road such as students in poverty who have limited access to the internet. As per the New York Times, the NYC DOE has been providing technology but some students must put a halt to their learning due to not enough computers being available for all. Will students retain what they learn online as compared to a traditional classroom setting?

7 words: No Wi-Fi? Well there goes my GPA.

Gloria Glenn (Class of 2020)

Cartoon repesenting networked devices

Quarantine Blog: Lab conditions: Before and now

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2020 by for Quarantine Blog.

Cartoon drawing of a lab rat

For the last 2 years, I have been working in Dr. Delamater's lab at Brooklyn College. Unlike many psychology labs, this lab features behavioral experiments from Ivan Pavlov's times in the late 1800s. I would conduct these experiments in operant conditioning chambers with Long-Evans rats as my subjects. The first set of experiments I worked on focused on the phenomenon of extinction. Recently, I finished an experiment about associative memory and how it affects behavior. Usually, my lab would have different people such as my mentor, the graduate students, and other high school students who come in and work on projects. Although it would be rare for all of us to be in the lab at the same time, now it's impossible. Currently, the lab is practicing social distancing and only my mentor, graduate student, and animal caretaker are allowed in at different times. High school students such as myself are not allowed in the lab currently, in order to limit the risk of spreading the virus.

Jasmine Huang (Class of 2020)

24/7 Lecture: NAMs

Posted on Friday, March 27, 2020 by for 24/7 Lecture.

The branches of the lungs

24 seconds: Like various other parts of our body our lungs become inflamed from diseases like influenza. This inflammation prompts an immune response in the human body. The response: macrophages. Macrophages are types of white blood cells that engulfs substances that can cause harm such as bacteria and viruses. In this scientific paper, a very interesting type of macrophage was researched on. These macrophages express CD169 and are developmentally and transcriptionally different from another type of macrophage called alveolar macrophages. It has been found that CD169 producing macrophages are commonly found within the bronchovascular tree and these specific macrophages are called nerve- and airway- associated macrophages (NAMs). The paper states that NAMs may aid more in inflammation regulation while alveolar macrophages my aid more in viral clearance.

7 words: Inflammation needs to go and NAMs help.

Lameya Rahman (Class of 2020)

Quarantine Blog: Why is research important?

Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2020 by for Quarantine Blog.

As a child have you ever wondered about what those college brochure people are doing wearing lab safety equipment and holding a pipette or looking into a microscope? What they are doing in the lab is called research — an investigation or a study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach a conclusion. Research allows one to open their creative mind to do anything that they wish. Most vaccines, medicines, diseases that have been cured, prevention of recurring diseases, treatments of ongoing illnesses, MRI, X-rays, birth control, and DNA have all come down to research. Without research, we would all die from an illness or we would not be able to predict when there is a storm to hit us.

"Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought." – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Victoria Habbchy (Class of 2020)

A fume hood filled with equipment
Inside Dr. Maja Nowakowski's lab at SUNY Downstate

Quarantine Blog: In the midst of the pandemic

Posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 by for Quarantine Blog.

Never would I have thought that COVID-19 would take away the last few months of my senior year. It feels so surreal, but as time goes on everything feels more like a reality. This pandemic has already caused much panic and disbelief in altering everyone's lifestyle. For us, it would be the transition from classroom style teaching to online zoom teaching, and the everyday interactions that turned into social distancing. Since the closing of NYC public schools on March 15, my parents have been stocking up on the necessities like food and toiletries. Stores like Costco have been rampaged against. This problem is a worldwide issue. COVID-19 has already affected 199 countries and territories with 708,020 world cases and growing. As of March 25, case counts in the US have exceeded China and Italy. However, that is not to say that there are not positive benefits. In China, for example, satellite images show a reduction of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the atmosphere. Similarly, in Italy, with the lock down, the canal waterways began to clear up. New discoveries have been made, one in particular of using drugs like chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat patients that have this virus. During times like this, the best way to stay calm is to not spread false information and to stay home.

Tiffany Ngo (Class of 2020)

Full shopping carts Lines of people waiting to enter a grocery store

Quarantine Blog: New York has gone to sleep

Posted on Monday, March 23, 2020 by for Quarantine Blog.

A line of customers outside COSTCO

The city that never sleeps has gone to sleep with no end in sight. The coronavirus has caused the bustling city to come to an end as everyday activities have been canceled. In 2018, the New York Post published that American families typically spend about 37 minutes together each day. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, thousands of people are working from home and students have online school. Families are now able to spend quality time together for the first time in a long time.

There are now specified times for at-risk elderly to go to supermarkets, stores are limiting the number of certain goods, such as toilet paper and cleaning products that people could buy. Before undergoing quarantine, many people are going to big-name supermarkets such as Costco and BJs. At Costco, they are only allowing a few people at a time causing a massive line outside that wraps around the whole store. BJs shelves are being cleaned out as soon as the employees restock the shelves. It is practically impossible to find toilet paper or canned goods at any store anymore.

Gabriella Shalumov (Class of 2020)

10 questions: In conversation with Tristan Ene

Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2019 by for Public Affairs.

Who do you work for and where?

I work for Dr. Brett Branco in the Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center (AREAC), an environmental science lab in Brooklyn College.

How did you find your lab and what drew you to it?

I found this lab while searching for ones that would fit my interest in marine science. I was drawn in because of Dr. Branco’s extensive experience in the field. In addition, his lab focused on the issues facing Jamaica Bay, an area that I am familiar with because of its close proximity to my home.

What do you research?

My research mostly focused on the water quality of Shell Bank Creek, an undersampled tributary of Jamaica Bay and the effectiveness of the NYC DEP’s testing methods throughout the bay. The project revolved around using an instrument called the YSI probe, which was able to measure dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, and temperature at different depths. I took measurements of each of these 4 conditions every 3 hours, from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM over the course of a day at depth increments of 0.5 m, starting from the surface and ending at the very bottom. In addition, I aided in a water quality research project that took place in Prospect Park Lake about harmful algal blooms.

Probe cables Probe display Probe sensors
Instrument used for water testing that measures dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature, and pH

What are the real world applications of your research?

In conducting this research I hope to shed light on the importance of testing in Shell Bank Creek as a tributary and the overall ineffectiveness of the DEP’s testing methods. As of now, the DEP mainly conducts water quality tests every two weeks at stations distributed across the bay. However, my project has shown that conditions such as dissolved oxygen, pH, and salinity vary significantly throughout the day and across different days. Therefore, the DEP’s water quality data does not provide a comprehensive look into the conditions in the bay due to the fact that water quality conditions are highly variable, even over the course of a single day.

How would you describe your lab environment?

Although I did not spend a lot of time in the lab due to the nature of my project, I always received ample support and help from those around me. Our laboratory had a high amount of traffic over the summer because of the many projects that were taking place at once, but there were always people willing to drop what they were doing to assist you if you needed it.

What are the best and worst/most difficult parts of conducting your research?

The best part of conducting my research was also the most difficult. Most of my research took place outside of the laboratory itself, in Shell Bank Creek. This particular tributary is important to me because I lived near it my entire life and I’ve witnessed firsthand the issues that have been facing it, such as the large amounts of plastic pollution. I was eager to learn more about the health of the tributary, especially when I learned how undersampled it was by the DEP. Working in the field was also the most difficult, however, because if the equipment I was using did not work properly I was miles away from the laboratory and I would have to begin sampling again the next day. Luckily this did not frequently occur, but it held up my project whenever it did.

Shell Bank Creek

What do you do when you get stuck or face a problem in your research?

Whenever I faced a problem in my research I always had direct contact with the lab manager and PhD student, Majid Sahin. He helped save my project more times than I can count.

Have you gained any interesting skills since starting work at your lab?

While working at the lab I learned a lot about communication and data analysis. Communication was especially important during my project, as the few processes that took place within AREAC itself (such as chlorophyll a testing) required many people working in tandem towards the same goal. In terms of data analysis, I learned how to turn an entire month of water quality data to a more understandable form, and explain why water quality conditions appeared as they did.

In your opinion, what qualities make for a good researcher? What skills do you have, or had to develop, that contribute to successful work?

Perseverance is an important quality for anyone looking to conduct research. In all, I emailed about 20 professors before I received a response back from a professor who was interested in taking me in as a mentor. It was worth it as Dr. Branco was highly experienced and helped me significantly in learning about environmental science research. Perseverance also prevented me from getting discouraged when I faced obstacles during my project and helped me to overcome many setbacks.

Are you ready for NYCSEF?!

I’m ready and excited to share my work at NYCSEF!

Interview by Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)

An interview with Midwood’s Math Team: Cooler than just calculus

Posted on Monday, December 2, 2019 by for Public Affairs.

If you think you need to be great at math to join the Math Team, think again. At Midwood High School, being on the Math Team is much more than rapidly calculating limits and derivatives — it’s a community, a think tank, and a great place to meet new people.

Team Captain Joel Rakhamim ’20 describes the environment as "Friendly, casual, and welcoming to new members". According to Rakhamim, "The main purpose is to enjoy what we’re doing and have fun with math. We try to look at math outside of the conventional ways. In our meetings, we work on different types of challenging problems or riddles together and then discuss different ways to do them".

One of the most popular reasons members have joined seems to be a desire to expand the bounds of their problem-solving abilities. Jeremy Maniago ’20 comments on his intrigue, claiming "I got involved with Math Team because I sought different approaches to different kinds of problems", with Gary Tran ’20 adding "I joined Math Team to hopefully improve my problem-solving skills and extend my knowledge of math in general".

While it’s typical to assume math as an independent activity, members attest the opposite: collaboration is crucial to their success.

Rakhamim explains "Normally, Mr. Peterson (our spiritual leader and motivator) starts by giving us a few problems to work on in groups, and we try to get the solutions as a team. Afterward, we all come together and go through each problem, noting different strategies". Teammate Jason Mai ’20 also notes "Being on the team helps you to come out of your shell a little bit, because you have to work together to achieve the common goal". From this, it’s evident that sharing ideas and thought processes is an integral part of the Math Team, because it ultimately makes them all better mathematicians.

Speaking of "Coming out of your shell", though, one of the most compelling aspects of joining is that not only can you bounce off of each other’s ideas, but those of new people as well.

Erin Ho ’20 shares "Last year I participated in two competitions and honestly, it was a lot of fun. I was placed on a team full of people I didn’t know, and being stuck with them for hours was interesting. It was fun seeing how other people’s brains worked". Mai adds, "You get to meet new people while prepping for competition; last year I played on a team that matched with someone from another school and it was pretty cool and fun to come together to work on math".

If you’re thinking of joining the Math Team, consider the following advice from Captain Joel: "I think anyone who is genuinely interested in math should join, regardless of their previous grades. A respectful person with a drive to learn and to help others learn would be a good teammate because they are, by virtue, committed, hardworking, and always willing to help out. It is also important to be able to have a rational, civil discussion since disagreements are inevitable".

In case you’re still not convinced, Rakhamim adds "Coach Peterson is divine".

Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)

Student Spotlight: Tanisa Rahman

Posted on Monday, November 25, 2019 by for Public Affairs.

Tanisa Rahman ’20 summed up her first day in Professor Wayne Schnatter’s organic chemistry lab at Long Island University in one word: "HOT".

"It was an incredibly hot summer day, I was sweating profusely but otherwise well-prepared to meet Professor Schnatter for the first time. I had my bright pink sneakers on and a Snapple in hand as I attempted to remember the route. I got lost a few times. Disgruntled and sweaty, I managed to arrive on time — but I wasn’t early like I expected to be — I was, however, very anxious".

Rahman’s nerves didn’t last long though, soon swelling into pulses of excitement at the prospect of the research that lay ahead of her.

"I started looking around and eventually found two Midwood seniors (now graduated) working in the lab. I was excited, and knowing that they loved the lab enough to invest their time during the summer was relieving; but far more relieving was the fact that there was AC in the NMR room!"

Tanisa Rahman working at the fume hood
Rahman working at the fume hood, Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York

While months have passed since Rahman’s first days at Schnatter’s lab, her ardor has only grown more concentrated with time. "[Schnatter] has been a wonderful mentor that has nurtured my love for organic chemistry, my respect for technology like NMR, and even simple equipment like a gas tight syringe," she says of her Professor.

Such an affinity would not be possible, however, without a genuine appreciation for the work to be done. Rahman summarizes the focus of her lab, claiming "Our research is dedicated to creating complexes called vinylketenes with an attached Fe(CO)3 group which is supposed to be opened during a cycloaddition reaction and act as a trapping agent when successful. My project consists of trapping the reaction intermediate benzyne using the vinylketene 3-phenyl-2-ethoxy".

Rahman simplifies matters with some real-world relevance, explaining how her work creates a means to more closely study benzynes, compounds with "A wide application in organic synthesis, for example, in the generation of antioxidants like aporphine, anti-cancer therapies like ellipticine, and the psychedelic drug, lysergic acid".

Tanisa Rahman's workstation
Rahman’s workstation, Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York

According to Tanisa, a typical work day goes as follows:

"I’m usually the first one in the lab. I unlock the lab doors, turn on the lights, and activate the stills for anyone who needs freshly distilled solvent for a reaction that day and get the vacuum pump going by pouring nitrogen into the trap. I get my gloves on and take out any compounds/samples from the freezer that need to be brought down to room temperature for reactions that day.

"In terms of actual experimentation, the week is usually outlined like this: Prep a reaction, purify the reaction product (via separatory funnel filtration or flash column chromatography) and get NMR data — which can take a very long time considering the age of our NMR technology".

As implied, every lab has its kinks, it’s just a matter of how you work around them. For Rahman, "The biggest struggle is that our technology is also really old. The NMR we use is from the nineties, and it’s missing autoshim, which is a setting on most new NMR machines; so it always takes a while to get the system rolling".

Be that as it may, Rahman feels incredibly fortunate to be conducting research in such an inspiring place. "I’ve just met so many awesome people here; they’re all like-minded, but very different from the people I engage with at school, so it’s a good environment to switch into," she expressed.

Perhaps most integral to Rahman’s success is the attitude adopted by her and all of her colleagues towards their work: "Rarely do we ever give up on an experiment or disregard our efforts. Schnatter’s been at this for 20+ years; I don’t see him stopping any time soon and I don’t see myself stopping this research either".

Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)

Ocean Science Team takes down Stuyvesant at Science Bowl Invitationals

Posted on Friday, November 15, 2019 by for Ocean Science, Public Affairs.

On Saturday, October 19th 2019, Hunter College High School opened its doors to some of the city’s brightest students for day of academic dueling in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Midwood’s Ocean Science Team — invited to the closed competition on account of their performance at the annual Hunter-hosted New York Regional Science Bowl — arrived ready to play. With students from the Ocean Science class in tow, Midwood was divided into three separate teams of five; an A, B, and C team, each selected by coach/teacher Mrs. Kimberly Lau for an optimal balance of knowledge and skill.

Group photo
Midwood High School’s Ocean Science students (pictured left to right: Coach Lau, Maham Ghori, Alex Ihnatenko, Emily Chu, Lucie Lim, Aryan Islam, Declan Lin, Idrees Ilahi, Anthony Yang, Alyssa Kattan, Jennifer Yakubov, Angela Jiang, Kimberly Nguyen, Lindy Nguyen, Kevin Ahrens, Mr. Elert, Vina Weng, Henry Hua, Hang Chen, and Kevin Ng.

The teams were each a combination of the older, more veteran members of Ocean Science and younger, newer competitors. "It’s always nice to see our upperclassman supporting and encouraging our underclassman to bring out the best in young minds", Coach Lau comments.

Regardless of age however, Midwood fared very well. The day started off on a high note, with our A-Team beating Stuyvesant High School’s A-team by a 20-point lead in the first round of competition. In the final round, Stuyvesant A was defeated again, only this time by Midwood B.

Although the Ocean Science team specializes in — well — ocean science, the breadth of APs taken between them all throughout the years has deftly prepared them for the competition material. Be this as it may, a surge of excitement is still felt throughout the room at the lightening-speed of their buzzers whenever the moderator opens with "Category: Marine Biology".

Other schools in the competition included Trinity High School and of course Hunter, both of which also had A, B and C teams. B-Team Captain, Jennifer Yakubov ’20 says "Invitationals was a great opportunity to meet new people. At a competition like this, not only is there time to play and have fun, but also to see how other schools from around NYC compete, and use the insight to get better for the future".

Speaking of fun, the best part of city competitions always takes place after the final buzzer sounds. As per the team’s tradition, Science Bowls at Hunter are followed by a mandatory Shake Shack dinner. So, after a long day’s work with hands tired from buzzing, five separate tables were soon dragged together to seat the group of 19. Burgers eaten and fries consumed, the Midwood Ocean Science Team raised their milkshakes to yet another great competition over.

Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)

Student Spotlight: Idrees Ilahi

Posted on Monday, November 4, 2019 by for Public Affairs.

Typically, when the time comes to start searching for labs, Midwood Science Research students will gravitate towards a workplace within the bounds of their academic comfort zones — but not senior Idrees Ilahi.

Having studied chemistry for two consecutive years at Midwood, Ilahi decided it was time to venture into something completely new: microbiology.

With a position secured in Dr. Bruce Cronstein's biochemistry and molecular pharmacology lab at NYU Langone Medical Center, Ilahi set to work on his research in the summer of 2019.

"I research the role of PKA and EPAC2 proteins in the cAMP second messenger system, which is a system that converts extracellular signals into intracellular processes. These signals activate a wide array of proteins (including PKA and EPAC2) so that they may aid in many important physiological activities. Specifically, we focus on the role of PKA and EPAC2 proteins in osteoblasts, which are cells that form bones," he explains.

Ilahi holding of a sample of his osteoblast cells
Ilahi holding of a sample of his osteoblast cells at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, New York

Although an evidently rigorous project, Ilahi handled the adjustment with competency and finesse. "The first thing I realized was that almost all of my project depended on how hard I worked, seeing as that I was really the one in control of what I was doing. This forced me to be more independent, and set my own goals," he says.

One of these goals, aside from educating himself on microbiology through independent research, was to understand the importance of his project in the real world. Ilahi shares, "In a nutshell, we're working to help develop a cure for osteoporosis; it's a disease that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing the degradation of bones over time. We're trying to better understand the role of proteins PKA and EPAC2 within osteoblasts, so that we can figure out how to successfully combat the disease".

Such an undertaking requires the use of very sophisticated research methods, many of which Ilahi has become experienced with. "I've learned how to do bone decalcification (which is basically just bone-softening so that they can be sliced), polymerase chain reactions (PCR) and gel electrophoresis, which is the stretching of DNA for further examination," he revealed.

Dr. Bruce Cronstein's biochemistry and pharmacology laboratory
Dr. Bruce Cronstein's biochemistry and pharmacology laboratory at NYU Langone Medical Center

On a separate but equally as intriguing note, Ilahi describes his lab environment as "Very homey… if that makes sense". He claims that with the messiness of everybody's projects going on at once, it feels like family, in the sense that it reminds him of how no one (not even the professionals) are trying to be perfect.

According to Ilahi, the best part of his job is "Finally achieving success after repeatedly failing," which is an innate part of the research process. To triumph through the many hurdles of such a complicated project, Ilahi recommends a strong spirit of patience and self-motivation. "I think trying to not get discouraged when things don't work out is the most challenging part of the whole thing," he adds, "but if you dedicate your all to it, and choose to work on something that you enjoy, it will always be worth it in the end".

Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)

Sophomores Generate Surprises at Science Fair

Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 by for Media, Science Fair.

Over 100 sophomore research students competed in the annual science fair back in May 2019. The students showcased their findings in front of about 130 judges made up of junior and senior research students, alumni, and Midwood teachers.

The year's first place winners included Nicole Gutierrez '21, Tiffany Ng '21, and Jacklyn Vu '21. Second place winners included Aliyeh Khan '21, Nitu Farhin '21 and Malayka Mudassar '21, and Jessica Serheyeva '21. Lastly, third place went to Ivy Chen '21 and Emily Chen '21, and Walter Rosales '21.

During the science fair, students put up big tri-fold posters outlining their whole experiment. The students waited and presented their work to the judges assigned to them.

"I am incredibly proud seeing how confident the students were in their work while talking to strangers," said Ms. Shaniece Mosley, one of the science research teachers. "It was an amazing experience."

Dr. Stephan Riemersma, one of the science fair judges, said, "They have to be ready to handle questions that they are not ready for, which is a part of the criteria on the rubric."

Traditional photo of the award winner holding their trophy standing in front of their poster board
Nicole Gutierrez '21 researched worm regeneration.

Gutierrez was one of the first place winners of the science fair. Her research dealt with planarian worm regeneration with respect to different magnetic fields. She had three worms in each dish with three magnets under six of the nine petri dishes.

However, science has unexpected challenges. One of Gutierrez's worms was a carnivore, so it ate the other worms in the same dish and messed up her data. In addition, halfway through the experiment, there was a change in the measuring device used.

Still, the results showed that worms had a higher chance of dying when placed in a higher magnetic field, whereas weaker fields prompted radical repair regeneration, thus allowing worm regeneration.

"It was rewarding because you were able to conduct your own experiment," said Gutierrez. "Throughout the entire year, we had to read research papers made by professors. Now we got to conduct experiments and come up with results like those professors."

Similarly, Mr. Glenn Elert, the science research coordinator of the event, said, "[The science fair] allows students to actually do science. In regular science classes, they just learn about traditional scientific methods, facts, and techniques, but you never really do actual science."

Aliyeh Khan '21 was one of the second place winners. Her research focused on the impact of gene expression on the effectiveness of transcription factors. In other words, she analyzed the DNA from the heart and compared it to other organs to see if those transcription factors can be useful in programming.

"Thirty-three percent of all deaths are from cardiovascular disease, which can be solved through regenerative medicine," said Khan. "Body cells can be used as heart cells, which can save a lot of money."

In a way, the science fair allowed students to find solutions to problems that could work to benefit society, while learning to deal with the obstacles that come with getting there.

"Science is a process, but also a way of life," said Mosley. "Things don't always work the way you want, but the important thing is to keep going."

Written by Tiffany Ngo and Sharon Wong (Class of 2020)
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Argus.

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