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H-ton Science Research Team Impressive at LISEF

Emily Shutman at the Long Island Science & Engineering Fair.
Emily Shutman at the Long Island Science & Engineering Fair.

The Crest Hollow Country Club was the scene of an impressive showing by members of Huntington High School’s science research team as the teenagers excelled in the second round of the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair and in this year’s junior varsity fair.

Senior Aron Coraor and freshman Jacob Strieb were among about 25 percent of the LISEF’s first round participants who were chosen to advance in the competition and challenge for awards and a berth in the International Science and Engineering Fair.

Huntington sophomores Emily Shutman, Nina Cartwright and Sabrina Palacios and the team of junior Thomas Kouttron and senior Hector Rubio vied in the JV division.

“The day was very successful,” said teacher Lori Kenny, who heads Huntington’s science research program. Mr. Coraor captured third place in the engineering category along with a special award from ASM Materials Education Foundation for the Most Outstanding Exhibit in Materials Science. The teenager will receive a medallion and certificate to commemorate his achievement.

Mr. Strieb grabbed honorable mention recognition, “which was a great accomplishment for a newcomer to the research program and for someone so young,” Mrs. Kenny said. Messrs. Kouttron and Rubio garnered honorable mention awards in the JV fair.

“The Charles Duggan Long Island Science and Engineering Fair is a competition for the most advanced high school projects,” according to the LISEF website. “The participants in this fair have a chance to present to professionals in their subject areas from local universities, scientific institutions and professionals in the field.”

The following are abstracts of the Huntington research students’ projects:

Aron Coraor

The purpose of this study was investigate a class of materials, namely superlattices of ferroelectric perovskite-structure oxides, to test for their potential to produce a single material that is photo reactive under visible light, has electrical band energies in positions suitable to drive hydrolysis, and that exhibits ferroelectricity, a property which may induce spontaneous segregation of photo-excited charge carriers. A material of this sort would then generate perfectly clean, easily transportable fuel in the form of hydrogen gas, when illuminated under sunlight in water, and could be utilized in solar farms.

Since a vast majority of the sunlight incident upon the surface of the earth is visible light or of lower energy, so this new material would be able to utilize far more of the Sun’s light than known materials active under UV light. Superlattices of PbTiO3 and SrRuO3 were grown using off-axis RF magnetron sputtering deposition, and characterized using x-ray diffraction, confirming the composition, ordering, and ferroelectric properties of these samples. These were illuminated in AgNO3 solutions under visible and UV light, as a proxy reaction of hydrolysis, and the surfaces were scanned using atomic force microscopy to identify any deposited Ag particles. No particles were found after either illumination, in contrast to bulk PbTiO3 which has been demonstrated to catalyze Ag deposition, strongly suggesting that superlattice ordering can greatly affect electronic band positions of a material, thus revealing an entire class of materials with potential to photocatalyze hydrolysis under visible light.

 

Jacob Strieb

Although sleep deprivation can drastically affect health, its effect on the progression of neurodegenerative disorders and the effects such diseases have on sleep patterns is not well-understood. Argonaute 2 is a central component of the RNA-induced silencing complex, which facilitates RNA interference and the regulation of transposons. Transposons are parasitic nucleotide sequences which cause instability in the genome. Sleep patterns of Drosophila with genetic mutations causing the Argonaute 2 protein to become nonfunctional were recorded using a TriKinetics Locomotor Activity Monitoring System and compared to those of wild-type control flies.

By using mechanical deprivation at timed intervals, Drosophila were deprived of sleep while their activity levels were simultaneously measured. Due to the large quantity of data from the TriKinetics monitors that required analysis, an alternative method for analyzing data was required. As opposed to using spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel, a unique data analysis program, named “Somnus,” was created. By using straightforward analysis and visualization techniques, Somnus was able to efficiently analyze large quantities of data taken directly from the TriKinetics monitors. Analysis performed by Somnus includes removing measurements from dead flies and grouping sleep into bouts of a desired length.

Results showed that flies with nonfunctional Argonaute 2 proteins had greater amounts of sleep fragmentation and less total activity than wild-type flies, though flies of all genotypes were shown to contain a high quantity of the Drosophila C Virus at the conclusion of the experiments, which may have affected the flies’ sleep patterns and lifespan.

 

Emily Shutman

Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) is a vital gas to the continuation of the global sulfur cycle and even helps to slow down the process of global warming because it helps to form clouds which in turn, block out the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation by deflecting the UV rays backing into space, causing a cooling effect. There are many species of marine phytoplankton that have been known to produce quantities of Dimethyl Sulfide, mostly from the Chrysophyte, Cryptomonad, and Dinoflagellate families. Symbiodinium microadriaticum is a species of phytoplankton that has been known to produce DMS. In the cells of Symbiodinium microadriaticum, DMS is in the form of DMSP and is only metabolized into DMS as a direct result of an oxidative stressor.

In nature, DMSP typically serves as regulator of salinity and temperature inside algal cells. In addition, DMSP can also serve as a cryoprotectant to keep the cells from freezing in cold climates. It has been proven that via ultraviolet radiation from the sun, Symbiodinium microadriaticum release DMS. Pollutants such as fertilizers have also been known to act as oxidative stressors, so when a solution of fertilizer stresses the algae, they will release the DMSP from their cells in its metabolized form of DMS. Although fertilizers are extremely harmful for many marine organisms, disrupt many marine cycles, and pollute the water, their plausibility as an oxidative stressor in Symbiodinium microadriaticum will have a positive effect on the environment as a minor remediation for global warming.

 

Nina Cartwright

The cicada wings of Psaltoda claripennis have been found to possess a bactericidal wing structure against an array of gram negative bacteria. On the other hand, a wide range of cicada species has not yet been tested to discover the range of this extraordinary ability to maintain a sterile environment by physical means. Ayuthia spectabilis was examined for its similar wing structure and morphology to that of the Clanger cicada. The bactericidal activity of this species was tested using both a gram negative and a gram positive cell type bacteria.

Specifically, Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis were cultured in nutrient plates of agar at 37 degrees Celsius until significant colonies were found in the plates. The cicada wings were then introduced to the plates in a way that would cover all surface area of the agar plates. After 24 hours the samples were examined and the number of colonies was then counted again to discover the effects of the wing structure of the cicada on the growth of bacterial colonies. After a 7 day period of data collection, the conclusion that the nano-pillar arrays of Ayuthia spectabilis is only effective in discontinuing the growth of gram negative bacteria.

 

Thomas Kouttron and Hector Rubio:

Traction on multiple ground surfaces is very important for drivers and vehicle operators. Tire chains and tire studs are very useful for gaining traction on different ground surfaces. Tire chains provide an extra source of traction by incorporating studded chain in a web pattern that mounts directly to tires, providing extra grip on slippery and uneven surfaces. Tire studs are also used in similar situations to gain traction when ballast weight is not enough. Tire chains are used commonly on snow and icy conditions; however, they may be useful on rock, in mud, and on gravel. The addition of the extra tire chains and/or tire studs, around the circumference of the tire, can aid in gaining traction on extremely uneven and slippery surfaces.

Despite the fact that tire chains are somewhat outdated, they are still very useful for gaining traction in slippery conditions. Experimentation should prove how effective tire chains and studs are at gaining traction on mud, ice, gravel, snow, sand, and rock using traction formulas and by making tests on these different surfaces.

 

Sabrina Palacios

The rising occurrence of Poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) is becoming a major problem in coastal communities and ecosystems. Many fish at the top of the food chain have been resulting in bioaccumulation of these substances. Of these many fish, striped bass (Morone Saxatilis) have been the most concerning of all species. Striped bass in the local Long Island area have been found with large amounts of these chemicals in their systems, which just raises need to be cautious of the amount certain demographics are consuming, especially pregnant women and children. The purpose of this project is to determine whether a highly poisonous pollutant can be found in local striped bass samples.

 

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