Senior Olivia Pollock put an exclamation point on an incredible year for the PMHS Science Research Program by becoming the 1st ever Pelham student to win the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)! The JSHS is the premier showcase for science, technology, engineering and math research by high school students and is sponsored by the U.S. Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The win in the category of Environmental Science earned Olivia a $12,000 Scholarship.
“Competing in New Mexico was easily the highlight of my research career,” Olivia said. “Until that point, every competition I’d done was virtual, they all lacked the connection between presenter and audience that can only be captured in-person, so Albuquerque was really special in that regard. Winning was absolutely surreal. It’s one thing to compete at the highest level and be surrounded by so many intelligent and passionate individuals; it’s something completely different to stand out from them as well. The gravity of winning and what it means didn’t occur to me for about a week after I’d gotten home; I don’t think it’s fully sunk in even now."
Olivia advanced to the National Competition held at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico after winning Best in Fair in the New York State JSHS competition. Olivia’s research, titled “Developing and Assessing Fucose-Based Water-Soluble Bioplastics,” led to the development of a type of plastic made of natural materials that can break down in the environment as well as in water, for which Olivia now holds a provisional patent.
The research project began during Olivia’s freshman year as a “Shark Tank” project. As a sophomore Olivia was looking into a potential internship in the field of Neurology, however before solidifying a placement in a lab, the state was shut down for the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Olivia revisited the plastics project, working with mentor Christin Abraham, a PMHS 2015 graduate, who in his time was also a National and International Finalist for his research.
“We are so proud of all of our research students, because nobody stopped when we got locked down,” said Science Research Teacher Steve Beltecas. “Students continued breaking down scientific articles, creating and presenting powerpoints and worked on developing ideas for their own original science research ideas.”
The PMHS Science Research program is taught by Mr. Beltecas and Joe DiBello. Students work with professional mentors in a variety of fields ranging from environmental and behavioral sciences to cancer research, among others. The students are able to work together and often review each other's work, providing feedback and honing their presentation and public speaking skills.
Olivia is also competing in Atlanta, Georgia May 9-13 at the prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair along with PMHS Juniors Julia Meyerson and Leah Sherbansky.