The Home of Midwood Science Research

24/7 Lecture: Betaine

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

24 seconds: Betaine is a supplement that can prevent the adverse effects of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a condition faced by many pregnant women. Women with GDM transfer an excess amount of nutrients to their fetus via the placenta which increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes for the baby in the future. The supplementation of betaine can reduce the amount of nutrients transported to the fetus by reducing the expression of Ki67 and angiogenesis. A lower Ki67 expression implies there are fewer cells and a lower expression of angiogenesis implies there are fewer capillaries. The reduction in placental cells and capillaries in the placenta reduces the transport of nutrients to the baby. As a result, this can reduce the prevalence of the births of unhealthy babies from women who are diagnosed with GDM.

7 Words: Betaine is a vital supplement during pregnancy.

Stella Ruan (Class of 2020)

Betaine molecule + placenta cartoon

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)

Engraving
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

8 Midwood Finalists at NYCSEF 2020

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2020 by for Awards, NYCSEF.

On Sunday, March 8, the 2020 New York City Science and Engineering Fair (NYCSEF) was held at CitiField. 34 Midwood Science students representing 27 projects were there — 8 were declared Finalists. Not a bad showing.

In a normal year, our 8 Finalists would be preparing for the next round of the competition at the American Museum of Natural History. What happens this year remains to be seen. Watch thse blogposts for news as we get it.

The 8 students' winning projects

Scientific posterMeghan Stern
Project: Home is where the support is: A reason why monk parakeets prefer man made structures
Mentor: Dr. Frank Grasso, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College
Scientific posterOliwia Dankiw and Blessin McFarlane
Project: Need for speed: Decomposition rates of conventional plastics versus bioplastics
Mentor: Dr. Zhongqi (Joshua) Cheng, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brooklyn College
Scientific posterLameya Rahman
Project: Effect of iron on Neisseria gonorrhea's Type IV pili (TFp)
Mentor: Dr. Nicolas Biais, Department of Biology, Brooklyn College
Scientific posterKelly Guan and Jessica Zheng
Project: Analyzing the effects of media multitasking on academic performance for disordered and non-disordered adolescents
Mentor: Dr. Sung Hun Kim, Department of Psychology, St. Francis College
Scientific posterMaham Ghori and Tahreem Sittar
Project: Role of uncertainty in governing attraction to food cues
Mentor: Dr. Andrew Delamater, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College

All 34 students

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The venue

CitiField Students waving from a high window

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)

Almedina Mulic is a finalist at the 2020 NYC Metro JSHS, Tanisa Rahman wins 2nd in chemistry

Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2020 by for Awards, JSHS.

JSHS logo

The NYC Metro Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) only accepted about 120 projects citywide for this year's competition. On Sunday, February 8, 2020, 6 Midwood students made it to the semifinals round. Almedina Mulic was declared first place in environmental science and a finalist overall. Tanisa Rahman received second place in chemistry. 4 additional Midwood students were declared semifinalists. Wish Almedina good luck as she prepares for the finals round in one week. Send congrats to all 6 of our winners. JSHS set a high bar that these 6 students deftly surmounted.

Finalist and first place in environmental science

  • Almedina Mulic (environmental science)
    Project: Do Geukensia demissa change how they feed in the presence of predators?
    Mentor: Dr. J. Stephen Gosnell, Department of Environmental Science, Baruch College

Semifinalist and second place in chemistry

  • Tanisa Rahman (chemistry)
    Project: Novel method of cycloaddition of cyclooctyne and trapping with a vinylketene complex and other cycloaddition reactions using benzyne precursors
    Mentor: Dr. Wayne F.K. Schnatter, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Long Island University

Semifinalist

  • Ashley Chin (behavioral science)
    Project: How does body awareness and parental bonding differ among black and non-black young adults?
    Mentor: Dr. Sara Chiara Haden, Department of Psychology, Long Island University
  • Henry Hua (environmental science)
    Project: Food consumption rates of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (green sea urchin) in a high CO2, low pH environment
    Mentor: Dr. Kestrel Perez, Department of Biology, St. Joseph's College
  • Jasmine Huang (behavioral science)
    Project: Effects of reversed Pavlovian learning in differentiating sex
    Mentor: Dr. Andrew Delamater, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College
  • Mariyum Jahan (behavioral science)
    Project: Male and female fiddler crabs prefer to group with members of the opposite sex
    Mentor: Dr. Frank Grasso, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College

Finalist Almedina Mulic
Finalist Almedina Mulic

All 6 semifinalists
All 6 semifinalists plus one teacher

Tristan Ene and Nadzeya Fliaha win first place awards at 2020 St. Joseph’s College High School Poster Session

Posted on Saturday, February 1, 2020 by for Awards, St. Joseph's.

St. Joseph's College coat of arms

Saturday, February 1, 2020 was the 24th Annual Research Poster Session for High School Students at St. Joseph's College New York. This event is open to all high school students in any field of scientific research and is sponsored by the Chemical Education Committee of the New York Section of the American Chemical Society. Midwood Science students collected most of the awards this year — 2 first place awards, 1 second place award, and 7 honorable mentions. Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School won the other second place award. Hudson County, New Jersey's Jose Marti STEM Academy and High Tech High School won 3 and 2 honorable mentions, respectively. Congratulations all around.

First Place

  • Tristan Ene
    Project: The effectiveness of DEP water quality testing in Jamaica Bay
    Mentor: Dr. Brett Branco, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brooklyn College
  • Nadzeya Fliaha
    Project: Probing the meta-magnetic order using magnetocaloric data and data analysis
    Mentor: Dr. Karl Sandeman, Department of Physics, Brooklyn College

Second Place

  • Anum Jabeen
    Project: Deep sequencing anemone mitogenomes: Understanding evolutionary relationships
    Mentor: Dr. Mercer Brugler, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History

Honorable Mention

  • Naffisat Atanda and Serena Duran
    Project: The relationship between academic performance and social anxiety in college students
    Mentor: Dr. Laura Egan, Department of Psychology, St. Francis College
  • Oliwia Dankiw and Blessin McFarlane
    Project: Need for speed: Decomposition rates of conventional plastics versus bioplastics
    Mentor: Dr. Zhongqi (Joshua) Cheng, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brooklyn College
  • Daniel Drozdov and Victoria Habbchy
    Project: Expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and production of nitric oxide (NO) by human monocytes after freezing and storage
    Mentor: Dr. Maja Nowakowski, Department of Pathology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Kelly Guan and Jessica Zheng
    Project: Analyzing the effects of media multitasking on academic performance for disordered and non-disordered adolescents
    Mentor: Dr. Sung Hun Kim, Department of Psychology, St. Francis College
  • Lameya Rahman
    Project: Effect of iron on Neisseria gonorrhea's Type IV pili (TFp)
    Mentor: Dr. Nicolas Biais, Department of Biology, Brooklyn College
  • Defne Sener
    Project: Biofuels from brown grease
    Mentor: Dr. Lawrence Pratt, Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, Medgar Evers College
  • Gabriella Shalumov
    Project: The effect of naturalistic visual stimuli on axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) motor behavior
    Mentor: Dr. Frank Grasso, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College
Student standing beside their posterboard Student standing beside their posterboard Student standing beside their posterboard
Group photo
Students standing beside their posterboard Students standing beside their posterboard Students standing beside their posterboard
Students standing beside their posterboard Student standing beside their posterboard Student standing beside their posterboard
Student standing beside their posterboard

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.

Waterscape
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)

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