By Stephanie Markowitz
Volume 69, Issue IV
The Westchester Science & Engineering Fair, also known as WESEF, is a competition
for science research students extending to all of Westchester County. As always, Briarcliff juniors and seniors in the science research program fared wonderfully at the competition, which was held in mid-March at Sleepy Hollow High School. Students were able to enteras individuals or as a pair.
Christopher Li, a junior at Briarcliff, placed first in his field, Behavioral and SocialSciences, and won the grand prize at the competition as well. He was thus selected to attend the GENIUS Olympiad, an international science research competition for high school juniors held in June at SUNY Oswego, where Li will be competing against 1200 students from 75 countries and 39 states.
In Li’s award-winning science research project, he “Examined restrictive and repetitive behaviors in young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I did it at New York Medical College at the Westchester Institute for Human Development with my mentor.” Li elaborated that these behaviors included “restricted interest, such as restricted interest in math or puzzles,” and“other behaviors that are more physical, such as visual behaviors like toe-walking or hand-flapping. We examined how these behaviors relate to a child’s age and their autism severity.” He said that this is a very under-studied area of autism, and he hopes to “promote the observation of these types of behaviors and get them to be more recognized in the current diagnostic criteria so that more children can get the proper diagnosis that they need earlier, and to get earlier intervention.”
Junior Camryn Jaeger was also selected to attend the GENIUS Olympiad. She chose to do her science research project in a pair, teaming up with a friend from the Pelham School District. At WESEF, Jaeger and her partner placed fourth in her field of Cellular and Molecular Biology. However, Jaeger submitted a paper detailing her project, work, and findings to GENIUSin December of last year, which allowed her to compete in the exclusive competition. About a week after WESEF, Jaeger found out that her paper had admitted her to GENIUS, news that she disclosed made her “very excited.”
When asked about her project, Jaeger explained, “we’re studying these things called mycobacteriophages. They’re viruses that can attack bacteria, and we specifically targeted this mycobacterium called smegmatis, which is very similar to tuberculosis. And so, we were able to isolate a phage that could infect both smegmatis and tuberculosis, which is very rare.” Jaeger’s work will help dramatically expedite the process of researching a better treatment for tuberculosis. She greatly enjoyed working in a lab over the summer and explained that the Science Research Program has made her a better student by teaching her time-management skills developed by working on a project largely on her own time.
The passion for the competitive aspect of science research demonstrated in these two students reflects the overwhelming success of the INTEL program and its participants. Briarcliff is so proud of all students involved and looks forward to seeing Chris Li and Camryn Jaeger’s success at the GENIUS Olympiad.