Lucas Paschke and Mykhaelia Clarke pose with Mr. Elert and Ms. Goldstein at the Terra NYC STEM Fair. Photo: Midwood Science
Three Midwood seniors — Lucas Paschke, Mykhaelia Clarke, and Kaitlynn Mau — presented their research projects in the semifinal round of the NYC Metro Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) at York College on February 12, the first in-person event since the pandemic. Paschke and Clarke also received third-place awards for their work in the Terra NYC STEM Fair on March 26.
The NYC Metro JSHS is a regional science research competition funded by the Department of Defense. Of the 300 applicants, 100 are selected as semi-finalists. The Terra NYC STEM Fair is hosted by the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, a non-profit organization in Syracuse, New York.
"[The competitions] taught me a lot," said Paschke, "like how to actually research in the field with another expert, coming into a situation where you don't know the most, and making your own conclusions instead of reading it from someone else. It was very fulfilling."
Paschke researched "multivariable analysis on stock price and trade volume trends in the post-Covid-19 stock market shutdown era." His project was a remote study to find trends between the pandemic's aftermath and its impacts on U.S. stock prices.
He created a code to collect data and organize multiple conclusions. Paschke worked with Professor Allison Bishop and said he wants to "follow in her footsteps."
Paschke concluded that the pandemic had a large impact on the stock market and that "the change in volume [how much a stock was being traded] influenced prices the most, so people were selling off their stocks at a large rate, which crashed the prices."
Clarke's project was titled "Exploring the Feasibility of a Fluorescence Imaging-Based Brain-Machine Interface (BMI)." Her project consisted of trying out different BMI, which are categorized two ways: the first are implantables (devices that touch the brain),which have a higher performance, and the others are non-invasive (not touching the brain), which don't cause tissue damage or raise concerns for biocompatibility (being compatible with living tissue).
"If you are going to choose one then you'd have to sacrifice performance or safety in the process," Clarke explained. She also tried another technique, called optical imaging, which combines the benefits of both implantable and non-invasive BMIs.
Clarke, who also worked with Professor Bishop, started her project in March 2022 and finished it in November. Throughout her research, she has concluded that functional near-infrared spectroscopy imaging has proven feasible.
Due to a lack of funds, Clarke used LEDs instead of a full-time microscope, limiting her imaging to only the top layer of the brain. If she could use multiphoton microscopy, she could penetrate to the neocortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for sensation, language, and movement.
"The brain has so many unanswered questions," she said. "Our consciousness doesn't play as much of a role that we thought it does." In the future, Clarke said she would like to participate in neurosurgery and neuroscience research for clinical trials.
Mau was a semifinalist in the JSHS. Having growth up with a family garden, she decided to research the "impact of Lactobacillus casei on corn, pea, and radish plants in sterilized and non-sterilized soil." Her project involved testing the credibility of claims surrounding this type of bacteria, which was said to enhance plant growth.
"There was just some random guy on the internet saying that his thing is going to help your plants grow," she said. "I was skeptical of it."
Mau experimented with four soil treatments and concluded that adding the bacteria made almost no difference. Mau worked on her experiment for almost the whole month of May, starting during AP season, coming in nearly every day to measure her plants' growth.
"I felt so nervous [about the competition]," Mau said. "There were only like three Midwood students that got in. I got into my room and we presented in front of the judges, and there were ten people from Bronx Science and I was the only Midwood person."
Becoming a semifinalist was a pleasant surprise. "I felt like, wow, I feel so accomplished! I did this," she said.
Her work has played a major role in her career plans."I found an interest in lab research and hands-on experiences," Mau said. "In the future, I know I want to be in the lab. That helped me decide my college and which program at a specific college is going to help me."
The research track is provided to rising tenth-grade students. It's a three-year-long course in which research is incorporated into a student's class schedule. The research class has helped these three Hornets embrace their interests without having to find an internship or wait until college to start exploring.
Mr. Glenn Elert, the science research coordinator, said, "If you want to do something where you get a hands-on, minds-on kind of activity that's going to take some time, you should join research."
"You get to do something you're passionate about," said Ms. Stacy Goldstein, a research and chemistry teacher. "Not what someone tells you to do, but something that you're interested in. You get to spend time on something that is directed by your own creativity."