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Research Students Delve Deep Into Science at MHS

Science Research

To satisfy their curiosities about the world, students in Massapequa High School’s science research program and investigating a broad range of topics. This year, nearly 20 students in grades 10-12 are enrolled in the program with teacher Dr. Paul Hesleitner, who meet in a dedicated classroom with state-of-the-art equipment.

The budding scientists are able to select research topics to reflect their personal interests. This year students are working on projects related to plastics in landfills and water bodies, color blindness correction and ultraviolet light sterilization, among others.

Supervisor of Science Daniel Mezzafonte explained that when students have a vested interest, they are more independent in their learning and gain a greater understanding of a topic.

The program has relationships with several scientific institutions including Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A partnership is also being developed with LIU Post. Massapequa students have been selected for some very competitive research opportunities that have thousands of applicants for a few dozen spots.

One requirement for the science research program is that students must enter their work into at least one competition per year. Among the contests that Massapequa students take part in are the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair, Long Island Science Congress, New York State Science and Engineering Fair, Regeneron Science Talent Search and NSPC Health Sciences Competition. Students are able to have their work judged by some of the top experts in the region. The school also hosts its own end-of-the-year science symposium so students can present to their parents.

The science research room gives students access to equipment used by real scientists. Fluorescence and stereo microscopes, UV-visible spectrophotometers and gas chromatography machines are some of the high-tech pieces they can use. There are also auto-temperature baths, drying ovens, incubators, rockers, sterilizers, a garage press, a large-scale printer and even a jeweler’s oven that was once used by the art program.

Dr. Hesleitner said that he is very grateful to the district for their support of the program and providing students with the tools they need to be successful in their research endeavors. Several of his researchers are so eager to be a part of the program that they actually take the class 10th period, after the typical school day ends.

This year, several students are studying the impacts of microplastics on the Long Island ecosystem. Another group is continuing a project started by science research students four years ago to investigate chemical trends in superconductors.

Sophomore Tristan Ehrhardt is working on a project to improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines in remote-control cars by modifying fuel mixture and temperature. With a desire to become an engineer, he first took science research in ninth grade at the Ames Campus and said he enjoys the challenge.

“I’d recommend the class to people who are interested in the area of science,” Tristan said.

Julia Duffy was a regular participant in the district’s Science Discovery Fair when she was in elementary school and enrolled in the science research class at Berner Middle School. Now, as a high school student, she is developing techniques of handwriting analysis to establish the emotional state of a person as a new forensic tool. She has been collecting handwriting samples from her peers on different days and correlating them to their emotions.

For Autumn Romer, she likes coming up with her own research topics and analyzing data. Performing an experiment, as opposed to reading about it, creates such a deeper level of understanding, she explained. This year, Autumn is studying the correlation between a high school student’s ability to develop detailed images with their ability to understand complex topics such as chemistry and math.