2023 WESEF

A student poses in front of her posterboard at the science research competition.
WESEF winners post with their teachers at the WESEF competition.
A student shows their science research project to a spectator.
A photo showing the WESEF competition
A student points to his science research project
A student and spectator looks at a posterboard
Competitors at the WESEF competition post in front of the Regeneron WESEF sign
A group photo of Pelham students at the WESEF competition

Pelham Science Research Program Has Dominant Showing at WESEF

Three Students Heading to ISEF

For the second straight year, Pelham Memorial High School’s Science Research was one of the County’s top performing programs at the 2023 Regeneron Westchester Science & Engineering Fair Awards Ceremony with the maximum of three students earning first place in their respective categories. Congratulations to the following students:

  • Sienna Giuseppi: Environmental Science 

  • Emma Van Praagh: Neuroscience

  • Robbie Shepherd: Physics & Astronomy

By placing first all three students earned the opportunity to participate in the world renowned Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, which will be held in Dallas, TX this May. 

In addition to having three first place winners, PMHS also had the largest contingent of students invited to the Awards Ceremony of all participating schools from across Westchester and Putnam Counties. 

“Each year, our science research program continues to fill Pelham with pride and we rightfully speak about it as one of the premier programs in the region. This year, with three first place awards and the most students earning recognition of any other school, I am thrilled to say our program is simply the best in class,” said Dr. Cheryl Champ, Superintendent of Schools. “Please join me in congratulating our students and thanking our Science Research Teachers Steve Beltecas and Joe DiBello, as well as Dr. Tom Callahan, Director of Math & Science for continuing to guide our science research program and take it to even greater heights.”

In addition to the success at WSEF, the University at Albany recently hosted more than 450 science research students and teachers for the 38th annual Upstate New York Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (Upstate NY JSHS). PMHS Senior Julia Meyerson was named one of the top five student researchers at the entire symposium. For this achievement, Julia and the four other finalists were selected to present their research at the 61st National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium this month in Virginia Beach, VA. 

“This is an indication of the incredibly high level work taking place each day in our Science Research program and Science department,” said PMHS Principal Mark Berkowitz. “I am so incredibly proud of our students and our faculty for these accomplishments. Together they have made our entire community proud.”

Complete WESEF Awards List:

American Psychological Association Outstanding research in psychological science

  • James Blackburn

Society for In Vitro Biology Award

11th grade students with outstanding research in plant or animal in vitro biology or tissue culture

  • Irene Basu

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Science Champion Award

Project that has the potential to make an impact on addressing international development challenges (Certificate)

  • Larisa Breskin

U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Top water-related projects

  • Connor Normoyle

  • Katie Brandler

  • Adam Wolf

  • Victoria Fair

Innovations in Biological Sciences Research Award

Awarded to innovative projects in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Medicine and Health, Microbiology, Computational Biology/Bioinformatics and Neuroscience. Generously donated by WESEF Alumni

  • Shreyas Singh

BASF Expanding Knowledge in Science Award

Awarded to students who exhibit excitement and an enthusiasm for discovery ($50.00)

Generously donated by BASF

  • Daniel Teleshevsky

Ingenuity in Math, Physics and Astronomy Award

Awarded to outstanding projects in Math and Physics and Astronomy Projects. Generously donated by Con Edison

  • Wan Chun Ting

  • Elizabeth Zusin

Office of Naval Research Award

Outstanding projects in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics

  • Samantha Gregware

Momentive - Solutions for a Sustainable World Award

Awarded to outstanding projects in Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Engineering. Generously donated by Momentive

  • Spencer Conrad

Teatown Young Environmentalist Award

Outstanding projects that aim to protect natural habitats and/or ecosystems. Generously donated by Teatown Lake Reservation

  • Pierre Caillate

  • Andrew Mullan

MakerSafe Excellence in AI Ethics Award

Presented to exceptional projects in ethical technology, data privacy rights, and cyber security. Generously donated by MakerSafe

  • Shreyas Basavatia

Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Engineers Award

Presented to students who exhibit the enthusiasm, desire, and intellect to engineer a better tomorrow. Generously donated by Engineering Tomorrow

  • Gavin Aumer

  • Isaac Lief

Carl Zeiss Microscopy Award

Given to outstanding projects that incorporate the use of a microscope

Generously donated by Carl Zeiss Microscopy, LLC

  • Amina Pucci

  • Ava Knickerbocker

Environmental Perspiration Award

Awarded to recognize perseverance and dedication in conducting field work in the environmental science field. Generously donated by Robert J. Weireter

  • Sean Condon

Honorable Mention Award

Projects that exemplify mastery in research. Sponsored by Carl Zeiss Microscopy, LLC

  • Ash Flippen

  • Leila Brady

  • Bruno Hochberg

  • Aoife Jeffries

  • Adam Garforth

4th Place in Category Awards. 

Sponsored by Westchester Academy of Medicine

  • Olivia Polsky

  • Christopher Blanc

  • Lauren Ulto

  • Adam Wolf

3rd Place in Category Award 

Sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Cares Foundation

  • Shreyas Basavatia

  • Isaac Lief

  • Julia Meyerson

  • Annabelle Hochberg

  • Irene Basu

  • Aadita Roy

  • Jonah Sherbansky

2nd Place in Category Awards 

Sponsored by Con Edison

  • Emma Crotty

  • Alexander Prencis

  • Spencer Conrad

  • Leah Sherbansky

  • Emma Van Praagh

  • Ava Knickerbocker

1st Place in Category Awards

Sponsored by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

  • Katie Brandler

  • Sienna Giuseppi

  • Robbie Shepherd

Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)

Awarded to the top 20 overall scoring projects.

  • Sienna Giuseppi

  • Emma Van Praagh

  • Robbie Shepherd


Emma Van Praagh Project Abstract

In multiple sclerosis (MS), existing diagnostic tools, including clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neurological disability scales, do not reliably represent disease severity or progression, warranting the investigation of improved imaging and clinical markers of disability, which are particularly important early in disease progression. Resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) in the spinal cord assesses alterations in gray matter functional networks at rest, which may provide insight into patient function. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the connections between sensorimotor impairment and resting-state spinal cord fMRI findings, which indicate quantitative measures of neurological disability and functional connectivity respectively, as measured longitudinally in MS patients with minimal disability. Findings from sensorimotor testing and fMRI were statistically analyzed. Clinical MRI were visualized and interpreted to qualitatively identify pathologies. Statistically significant correlations between sensorimotor impairment and functional connectivity illustrate emerging connections between neurological disability and gray matter functional networks. This study is the first report of statistically significant correlations between sensorimotor impairment and ipsilateral functional connectivity in the spinal cord in MS. Notably, observations of leptomeningeal inflammation in spinal cord MRI visualization are heretofore undiscussed in MS literature, highlighting the importance of spinal cord MRI as a distinct form of prognosis in MS. These findings contribute to the exploratory knowledge of the functional network in the spinal cord in MS, particularly in minimal disability, emphasizing both compensatory and disabling damage as related to sensorimotor impairment. These analyses will aid in the identification of novel spinal cord fMRI markers for early MS prognosis.

Robbie Shepherd Project Abstract

A pulsar is a type of highly-magnetized rotating neutron star, whose radiation emission is received by Earth in periodic pulses. While their rotation is typically extremely stable, some will occasionally experience a sudden increase in rotational frequency in an event known as a glitch. It is suspected that glitches occur when a build-up of angular momentum is transferred from the inner superfluid of the star to the outer crust, and they vary in size depending on the breaking point that triggers this transfer. Studying glitch size properties and their correlations with other parameters of the pulsar can tell us more about the causes and conditions of these breaking points, which are currently unknown. This study combines the major methodologies of previous studies of pulsar glitches to complete the first comprehensive exploration and analysis of glitch sizes and their patterns, using a combination of previous data along with almost 4 years worth of new data, which is analyzed for the first time in this work. A previous hypothesis made by Fuentes et al. (2019) suggesting there are two kinds of glitches - large ones with a correlation between glitch size (Δ𝜈) and the time until the next glitch (Δ𝜏k+1) and small, uncorrelated ones - is not followed by the situations of half of the pulsars in the sample with ~10 or more recorded glitches. This key result suggests that the hypothesis cannot be applied to a sizable portion of the glitching pulsar population, indicating that there are far more complex conditions, or even multiple varying conditions at play here, resulting in multiple explanations as to what causes a pulsar’s glitch breaking point. These findings propose that there is more to be understood about potential differences in the internal structures of these stars, and exploring this would open up even more opportunities to study the physics of matter in realms of extreme density, such as those present within a neutron star.

Sienna Giuseppi Project Abstract

To resist detrimental and irreversible climate damage, our dependency must shift from fossil fuel-derived energy to renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, current popular renewable energy sources require the construction of massive structures that distress their environments (ex. wind turbines, nuclear power plants). Electricity production is one of the greatest contributors to CO₂ emissions, with its utilizations ranging from the heating of households to the charging of electronic devices. Piezoelectricity is the phenomenon in which electrical charge is accumulated in response to applied mechanical stress. With laptops presenting themselves as one of the most widely-used electronic devices in the world, and mechanical energy constantly being dispersed onto the keys whenever in use, it was hypothesized that piezoelectric material can charge the device by harnessing the mechanical energy from each keystroke to power the device. This novel design was created with 10mA piezoelectric disk elements arranged along the laptop’s baseplate. Each element was soldiered in parallel, and the chain became the power source for the laptop. Veneir voltage probe and multimeter were used to measure the average voltage produced for different typing speeds. An average of 0.436V, 1.029V, and 1.643V was generated per keystroke for typing speeds of 23WPM, 49WPM, and 53WPM respectively. Despite their low current, the piezo elements demonstrate proof of concept for the viability of this design as the implementation of materials such as lead-zirconate titanate (PZT) or other piezoelectric material with greater currents will provide greater power for the laptop per keystroke. Thus, eliminating the necessity for a laptop charger, and providing fully renewable energy to charge these devices.