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Popular Student Science Research Program Needs Mentors To Remain Successful:

Science Research student Phoebe Neilsen studies the effects of different spices on the metabolism of fruit flies and hopes to utilize what she learns to fight diseases affecting humans.

The rising junior at Sleepy Hollow High School utilizes a mini-lab in a second-floor classroom funded by Science for Society and the Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns. But the expansion of her program is hindered by the lack of a local mentor. Currently, she collaborates remotely with a professor from Vitalin Research Institute in Colorado, but a local mentor would allow her to elevate her work to a higher level. 

“A local mentor would allow me to expand my studies to other model organisms and I would be able to study the effects of polyphenols on conditions such as oxidative stress or cancer growth,” said Phoebe.  

Many of the Science Research students and approximately 35 new students entering the program this fall need mentors who will provide guidance and, in some cases, offer their facilities to students.

Mentors throughout Westchester and New York City assist students who are interested in fields including: chemistry, medicine, biology, engineering, psychology and environmental studies. As much as they do for the students, Science Research Co-director Michele Zielinski said a need for more mentors still exists. 

“The continued success of the program depends upon the community sharing their talents and expertise with the students,” remarked Zielinski. “We hope to find mentors who can work with them and provide them with additional support.”

Students involved in the Science Research Program develop a research plan in sophomore year and then put the plan into action over their final two years at SHHS. The student-researchers present their findings at regional and national competitions with hundreds of other students.

In March seven SHHS students received awards in their categories and six students placed in their categories at WESEF. Senior Molly Brennan secured a spot at the International Genius Olympiad. and was joined by an additional 10 science research students who won a spot by sending in their research papers.

Zielinski remarked, “Our students are hard-working and dedicated. They benefit from mentors who have specific knowledge on their projects and the mentors reap rewards as well.”

Noah Van Zamdmer is an engineer at IBM with 20 years of experience. “I know that teaching new employees how to collect, analyze, plot and interpret data is a long process requiring a lot of guidance and feedback. New employees struggle with questions for which textbooks alone don’t prepare them,” said Zamdmer. “I am happy to mentor Science Research students, to hone my own teaching and coaching skills, and to give students a strong taste of the real scientific life outside of the classroom.”

Zielinski and fellow Co-director David Erenberg meet with program participants in a traditional classroom setting as well as one-on-one. The mentors provide the extra support in person or remotely through Facetime and Skype.

Sandra Aderemi, a rising junior doesn’t have a mentor. She would like to commence her research regarding stress and anxiety related to teaching styles. “I believe a local mentor one would allow the exchange of ideas and information more efficiently, opposed to only being able to communicate digitally.”

For more information about the Science Research Program or how you could become a mentor, please contact Michele Zielinski, mzieliniski@tufsd.org or David Erenberg at derenberg@tufsd.org.