Juniors John Russell '22 and Giovanna Armetta '22 placed 2nd and 4th, respectively, in the 2021 Connecticut State STEM Fair (CT-STEM Fair) last weekend.
The CT-STEM Fair is a statewide science research competition that began in 2001 with a mission of providing students with an opportunity to present their research work to like-minded scientists and professionals who currently work in the field.
One year ago, King School's Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE), then in its infancy, competed in its first statewide science research competition, the CT STEM Fair, where Ryan Heaton '21 put King School on the map as a successful research-focused school. This year, the new class of ASPIRE students returned to the CT-STEM Fair, where John Russell '22 and Giovanna Armetta '22, put King School on the (virtual) podium twice out of an applicant pool of 280+ entries who competed in four categories: Behavioral Science, Environmental Science, Health and Medical Sciences, and Physical Science.
John Russell '22 was recognized for his research project, "Clustering X-ray Absorption Spectra of Catalytic Materials for Energy Applications," which he conducted in the Hu Lab at Yale University. He received a $225 scholarship for placing 2nd in the Environmental Science category of the 2021 CT-STEM Fair.
Giovanna Armetta '22 was recognized for her research project, "Mispositioned Myonuclei Likely Contribute to Muscle Fatigue in Muscle Disease," which she developed in the Baylies Lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She received a $75 scholarship for placing 4th in the Health and Medical Sciences category, which is the most competitive category of the CT-STEM Fair with the largest number of entrants.
Both students began their research work in June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed additional challenges in their work. While working mostly remotely, each student coordinated lab experiments with their on-site lab mentors who relayed data to the students. John and Giovanna were then responsible for the data analysis portions of their projects and, in doing so, came to pivotal conclusions in their respective fields.
Regarding his experience, John Russell '22 writes,"The King ASPIRE program is such a highlight for me. It affords me the chance to work in a graduate school lab with researchers who entrust me with real work, mentor me, and give me an opportunity to contribute and move the research forward in new ways. Now, I am in a new stage, where I present my research to various science fairs. Most recently, the CT-STEM Fair required a poster presentation accompanied by a three-minute video that forced me to be pithy in portraying months of work. Feedback from my ASPIRE peers and Dr. Schulman helped me improve throughout the process, and feedback from the CT-STEM judges will help me sharpen my presentation for future fairs. I am honored to have been singled out in the CT-STEM Fair, and excited to continue my research over the next year."
The ASPIRE program spans a students' final two years of their high school career and serves as a foundation for students to pursue STEM-related careers by providing real-world experience with real-world impact. To this point, Giovanna Armetta '22 notes, "I'm honored to represent King and to work alongside my peers in the ASPIRE program. This opportunity has inspired me to pursue an education in STEM and to have an impact on real-world problems. I'm so happy to have been involved and challenged by this competition. Although it was anticipated that we would compete virtually, the many changes and obstacles during the application process could not have been foreseen. I think these challenges tested all of us in some way, and we all learned to adapt to the quickly changing situation and persevere. Dr. Schulman also inspired us to 'think outside of the box' and find creative solutions to each issue, so we could share our research projects at the competition."
Although the CT-STEM Fair boasts to provide an authentic experience for students to defend their work face-to-face in front of professionals and resident experts as they would at national research conferences, this year's CT-STEM Fair was forced to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, leading to fully virtual project presentations. The Director of Science Research, Dr. Victoria Schulman noted, "Students were initially told that they would present their work live via Zoom in a 10-15-minute window, but just a few days before the competition, we were informed that they needed to submit a three-minute video presentation of their work. This was a drastic change in terms of our strategic approach to this competition, but I was very proud of all of the ASPIRE students for demonstrating incredible flexibility and resiliency in the face of these ever-changing rules and regulations, as the fair directors worked to meet state guidelines in the moment. The students quickly and impressively created top-notch video presentations of their work in fractions of the time they thought they had. Despite these setbacks, they still emerged victorious, and I couldn't be more thrilled for our students. They have certainly represented King well in this statewide arena."
The ASPIRE students are now gearing up for the Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair (CSEF) to take place on Sunday, March 14, 2021, as well as the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) Regional Competition, for which William Bernfeld '22, Wafa Nomani '21, and Joseph Winterlich '21 have already qualified for the finals round to take place on Saturday March 6, 2021.
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.