Six students from the Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE) delayed their spring break plans to qualify for the final round of the 2022 Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair (CSEF). The effort proved to be worthwhile for the students, who advanced through higher levels of competition and brought home numerous awards from the event.
Ben Persily ’23 won several distinctions for his research exploring whether prime editing in stem cells could be used to correct the well-characterized mutation that causes cystic fibrosis. He won the Society for In Vitro Biology Specialty Award and placed in the top five of the Life Sciences category. He also earned one of only seven prestigious spots on the Connecticut delegation to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
“It is such an honor to be King’s first representative to ISEF. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to conduct research that King and its ASPIRE program have given me, and I can’t wait to meet other young scientists from all over the world,” said Ben. He was chosen out of approximately 700 entrants to represent King and Connecticut on the international stage.
In another King School first, Antonia Kolb ’24 earned an invitation to compete at the 2022 Connecticut Invention Convention to present her work on DeTickt, an app that uses epidemiology and geospatial data to detect tick species and identify diseases that a species might carry based on the location where the tick was photographed on a smartphone. The app’s goal is to use computer science to decrease the timeline for disease diagnosis so that patients can receive faster medical care if exposed to a tick-borne illness.
Additionally, Antonia won first prize in the Computational Science & Bioinformatics category and the Next Step Inventors Special Award at CSEF for her work on the app. “It was a challenging project, but with Dr. Schulman’s amazing help and mentorship, I was able to gain recognition for my research,” said Antonia.
“I am very close to getting my app published in the app store, which will spread awareness about underresearched tick-borne diseases,” she said. “Although I am not officially in ASPIRE, I cannot wait to join this group of amazing scientists next year!”
Antonia, a sophomore, was uniquely selected to compete at CSEF with the juniors and seniors in ASPIRE based on her standout performance at the 2021 King School Science Fair last spring as a freshman. She will officially join the incoming class of ASPIRE for the 2022-23 school year when she becomes a junior.
Adding to King School’s impressive showing at CSEF was Gouri Krishnan ’23, who won both the MIT Club Award and the Frank J. Link Family Specialty Award for her design of electrochromic color-changing window glass. When the glass is activated, it changes color to keep heat energy in or out, depending on the season. Both recognitions are awarded specifically for energy-related research projects. Gouri also placed in the top 15 of the Physical Sciences category.
In an effort to mitigate climate change, Adam Nomani ’22 won the Office of Naval Research Specialty Award for his adaptations of HVAC systems using phase-change material to cool warm environments without producing carbon emissions.
Finally, Giovanna Armetta ’22 and Yuriy Sandmeier ’23 both made the top ten in the Biotechnology category for their work on developing treatments for muscular dystrophy and tuberculosis infection, respectively.
This year’s success in science and engineering research competitions reflects the direct efforts of King’s Strategic Plan to make research not only a goal but a hallmark of academic excellence at King.
“Since the inception of the ASPIRE program three years ago, it was always our goal to coach and mentor students to stand out at local, state, and national levels,” said the Director of Science Research, Dr. Victoria Schulman, who runs the ASPIRE program.
“It is utterly amazing to me that the students have surpassed our hopes, and now we’re competing on the international level. King has arrived! And other schools and programs are noticing our talented students,” she said. “These eager students never cease to amaze me, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish next! Some people only dream of meeting their favorite scientist. I feel so blessed that I get to teach mine! They are so exciting to work with.”
The ASPIRE program is supported by the Advanced Mathematics and Science Study Program endowed fund established in 2018 by Margharet, Frank, Bea ’15, and William ’17 Nash to support select students with demonstrated ability and interest in achieving true excellence within science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics in global competition preparation, and/or laboratory research experiences. If you are interested in further supporting this opportunity for students, please contact the Development Office to discuss how your gift can help.