There’s more great news from the Authentic Science Research Program at Byram Hills High School, this time as our student scientists competed on an international stage.
Three seniors, Samantha Abbruzzese, Renner Kwittken and Brent Perlman, qualified to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona, last week.
Renner won a third place award in the category of Translational Medical Science. His research is titled “Priming the Tumor Microenvironment with Cyclophosphamide to Enhance Nanoparticle Delivery: An Imaging Study.”
Brent won a fourth place honor in the Microbiology category. His study is called “Human Photosynthesis: Functional Chloroplast Sequestration in Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells.”
“Congratulations to our three students for their outstanding scientific research and on earning a spot to compete at this prestigious event,” said Dr. Caroline Matthew, a teacher in the Authentic Science Research Program.
“Congratulations to Renner and Brent for their excellent showing,” she added. “We are so proud of their crowning achievement.”
The competition, a program of the Society for Science & the Public, bills itself as the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The event featured over 1,800 young scientists from more than 80 countries, regions and territories.
Dr. Matthew said she was “inspired by the students’ passion and dedication to science, as well as the focus on connection and collaboration. ISEF was an impressive and memorable milestone in their lives.”
Recognizing their tremendous accomplishments and their hard work and devotion, Byram Hills High School is celebrating its student-athletes who have committed to playing their sport in college next year, including several headed to Division I programs.
“We wholeheartedly congratulate these fine athletes for their commitment, dedication and passion for their sport, and are extremely proud of all of their achievements,” said Rob Castagna, Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for Byram Hills. “We wish them the best of luck as they continue playing their sport at the collegiate level.”
At a ceremonial signing day in the high school gym in late April, Byram Hills honored eight students taking their talents to the next level.
They were Mike Caporale, Union College, basketball; Ciara Dalton, Manhattan College, swimming; Eva Duffy, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, soccer; Carson Frye, Georgetown, baseball; Ben Leff, New York University, basketball; Brett Perlmutter, Middlebury College, swimming; Willy Samsen, Union College, basketball; and Daniel Vataj, Williams College, football.
“We’re here to celebrate the accomplishments and to recognize our student-athletes who have worked very hard at their craft,” Mr. Castagna told the crowd of parents, coaches, teammates and school administrators.
Several other Byram Hills students have committed to playing next year in college as well. Sam Alvis is headed to Eastern Connecticut State University to play soccer, Tyler Harp will play soccer at Carnegie Mellon University, Griffen Rakower is headed to Princeton for lacrosse and Lauren Selkin will run track at Mount Holyoke College.
Here’s a closer look at the Byram Hills athletes continuing their athletic careers in college:
Sam Alvis is a soccer goalie who will play at Eastern Connecticut State University. He is deeply committed to his sport and has become an incredible goalie with great hands and a vocal leader as well. He spent his final high school season training within the GPS International Soccer Program in Spain. Although he was unable to complete his career at Byram Hills, his international experience will serve him well at the college level.
Mike Caporale is a 6-foot-6-inch power forward headed to the Union College basketball program. At Byram Hills, he averaged 11 points per game and made 57% of his shots, and had eight rebounds a game and close to two blocks a game.
Ciara Dalton will swim for the Division I program at Manhattan College. She was a four-year All-League and three-year All-Section swimmer, and for three years, she advanced to the state level to compete in the 100-butterfly and the 200-individual medley. She holds the school records in the 200-individual medley, 200-freestyle, 100-butterfly, 100-breaststroke, and this year, she broke the 500-freestyle record.
This season, she placed first in the 100-fly and 200-IM at the divisional meet, placed in the top eight in both events at sectionals, and in the top 30 at states.
Eva Duffy is headed to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she will play soccer and hopes to be a walk-on for basketball. A midfielder, she played for the Byram Hills soccer program for four years, and made a big contribution to the team on and off the field.
Carson Frye is a right-handed pitcher headed to the Division I baseball team at Georgetown. He throws a 90 mph-plus fastball and recently won the prestigious Con Edison Scholar-Athlete of the Week award. He is regarded as one of the best pitchers in Westchester County.
Carson finished last season with a 4-1 record in five starts. He led the team with 0.73 ERA with 58 strikeouts in only 38 innings pitched. A major highlight came when he pitched a no-hitter against the Rye Garnets as he struck out eight batters.
Tyler Harp, one of the strongest soccer midfielders to have worn the Byram Hills jersey, will take the field for Carnegie Mellon University. An All-Section selection, he was regarded as a fierce competitor who controlled the central area of the field.
Ben Leff, a 6-foot-8-inch power forward, is headed to play basketball at New York University. He’s regarded as one of the most skilled big men in Byram Hills history. He had 729 career points on over 50% from the floor, with nearly 10 rebounds per game and over a block per game. He demanded a double team in almost every game during his junior and senior seasons.
Brett Perlmutter, who swims freestyle, is headed to Middlebury College. Brett started at Byram Hills as a junior. This season, he was named All-League and All-Section, and represented Section 1 at states in two events. Brett broke the Byram Hills record in the 50-yard freestyle this season by completing the event in 22.14 seconds. He was also a member of the relay teams that hold Byram Hills school records for the 200-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.
Griffen Rakower is a lacrosse goalie headed to Division I Princeton. As a junior, he had a 62.7 save percentage and finished the season with 132 saves. He held his opponents to under 10 goals in 14 out of 16 games. He earned an All-Section honor last year, after being an All-League player in his sophomore year.
Willy Samsen, a 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard, is heading to Union College to play basketball. He is a four-year varsity player at Byram Hills, has 661 career points and 115 3-pointers. With the Bobcats, his career record was 74-20 with four league titles, a Gold Ball and a state final four berth.
Lauren Selkin will run track for Mount Holyoke College. She was new to the Byram Hills Track and Field team. She only began competing this past winter, and won a League Championship title in the 3,000 meters. In the spring season, Lauren placed second at the League meet in the 1,500 meters with a time of 5:06.11 and in the 3,000 meters with a time of 11:01.36.
Daniel Vataj, a lineman, will play football at Williams College. He was a four-year starter on the offensive line, and a three-year starter playing offense and defense.
The Byram Hills Authentic Science Research Program is having an incredibly successful year, highlighted by senior Brent Perlman’s seventh-place win at the highly renowned Regeneron Science Talent Search.
Brent, whose biological engineering research involved inducing photosynthesis in human stem cells, won a $70,000 prize at the competition’s annual gala in Washington on March 12. He was one of 10 students to win top awards in the highly prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.
Brent’s research involved designing a process to induce photosynthesis in human cells for the first time, which could have applications in the treatment of heart attack, stroke and cancer. He achieved this accomplishment by isolating chloroplasts, the photosynthetic components of plant cells, from baby spinach leaves, and culturing them with human cells.
Brent said he was honored to receive the award, and said he planned to put his prize money toward his biological education and research. “With this award, my dream of one day creating impactful chloroplast therapies comes one step closer to reality,” he said.
In the three decades that Byram Hills has competed in the Science Talent Search, the only other student to finish in the top 10 was Jayne Wolfson, who won sixth place in 2004. In the same time span, Byram Hills has had 20 finalists, including Brent
“He is a daring, determined scientist who has been an inspiration to everyone in the program and a constant reminder of the power of combining creativity with curiosity,” said Stephanie Greenwald, Director of the Authentic Science Research Program. “His success is shared by the entire program and the whole school community.”
Shortly after the Regeneron competition, the science research students were off to the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair at Sleepy Hollow High School, where they won a record-breaking number of awards on March 16.
Those successes, along with other honors won by science research students, have combined to make this year a great one for the 27 seniors in the research program.
The three-year program, in which students conduct original, high-level research, has an open-enrollment policy, which means students do not have to be taking honors science classes to participate. Students of all academic backgrounds have found success during this year’s science competitions, making the season highly rewarding.
“It has been a banner year for the Byram Hills Authentic Science Research Program,” Mrs. Greenwald said.
“Our senior class this year represents a wide range of students from across the school community, each having taken a unique path to reach their goals,” she said. “Their successes continue to demonstrate that perseverance and curiosity can lead to meaningful work that receives widespread recognition.”
Twenty-three seniors won 32 awards at the Westchester science fair known as WESEF.
Brent, Samantha Abbruzzese and Renner Kwittken were among the students who had the top 12 overall individual scoring projects at the fair. With this distinction, they secured spots at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona in May.
The three will spend a week there competing against top student science researchers from around the world at the event known as ISEF. “We are very proud of our ISEF finalists,” Mrs. Greenwald said.
On March 27 and 28, seven seniors presented their research at the Upstate New York Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albany, with Joshua Freedman winning first place and a $2,000 scholarship and Renner Kwittken coming in fourth in the speaker presentations. Emma Lucchino won third place as a poster presenter. Joshua and Renner advanced to compete in the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in late April. The seniors in the Authentic
Students twisted wire with pliers, used a jeweler’s saw to cut designs from sheets of copper and brass, pounded metal with hammers to add texture and learned to solder two pieces of metal together with a torch.
This was Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design, a fine arts elective that debuted at Byram Hills High School in the fall and will continue next year.
The introductory course taught students the principles of design using metal as they learned to create small-scale sculpture and jewelry. Students learned how to smooth the rough edges of the metal with files and sandpaper, how to rivet and use a drill to create cold connections and decorative holes, and to polish their pieces to a high shine.
With assignments that called upon students to make a piece with movement and to create a modern interpretation of a historical artwork, the inaugural class made all sorts of objects. There were round boxes, picture frames, earrings, necklaces and rings, wall hangings and key chains.
Art teacher Jayne Karlin, an experienced jewelry maker who taught the class, was impressed with the strength of the students’ work, especially since they had to learn to use the equipment and the techniques before they could start creating.
“I was really, really pleased,” she said. “I had great students who were very serious and wanted to learn.”
The class offers students a new way to express themselves artistically in a medium that can be two or three dimensional and helps teach them patience. Working with metal is very time consuming and it is hard to manipulate.
“This teaches them there are steps and procedures and there is something positive in taking your time and thinking through a problem,” she said. “It can’t be done quickly.”
Learning to use the hand tools can also help students later in life.
“If you’re a homeowner, you need to know these things,” Ms. Karlin said. “These are real-world skills that have to do with everyday life. If you have to fix something, what kind of hammer or plier are you going to use?”
Senior Sofia Garcia called Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design one of her favorite classes and she enjoyed the freedom students had to make what they wanted.
“Now I do consider myself to be a little more creative because we had a lot of leeway in the projects,” she said.
Working with metal was both relaxing and a good way to relieve stress, she said, and required focus.
“It’s kind of a way to get out your anger,” she said. “We’re hitting metal the entire class and also you have to be focused. You can’t be spacing out. You have to get your work done. It’s engaging.”
Finishing a project was the sweetest reward.
“Completing a piece is the best thing because of the fact that it’s so much hard work and you have to be so focused,” said Sofia, who often wears the jewelry she made.
Proudly taking home a project to show her family “made me feel great,” she said.
Principal Christopher Walsh says the course is the perfect example of the ‘A’ in STEAM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics education.
“Students are using so many design skills and their products are true assessments of their learning,” he said. “I wish we could offer more classes like it. We are extremely lucky to have a teacher like Jayne Karlin who is always looking to expand our offerings and bring them in line with real-world applications.”
Sofia learned the real-world lesson of just how difficult it can be to make something by hand.
“You don’t realize how hard jewelry making really is until you do it,” she said. “It’s so easy to buy jewelry at the store. Making it is so different. It’s a great feeling having a completed piece done.”
To be a high school student at Byram Hills these days often means obsessing over a GPA that is through the roof, earning sky-high scores on college admissions exams, building a well-rounded resume and feeling pressure that there is always something more to do.
With that intensity comes an average of nearly three hours of nightly homework, hours at extracurricular activities and too little shuteye as students strive to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges.
“Our students feel a tremendous amount of pressure to get accepted into highly selective colleges and universities,” Principal Christopher Walsh said. “They lose sight of being a kid. Many of our students wind up mortgaging their high school years for something they don’t have a lot of control over.”
To help counter this stressful burden, Byram Hills is hoping to inject more humanity and balance into the college admissions process by urging students to focus more on engagement, or what they will do at a university, and less on feeling that the right school for them is automatically the most selective one that accepts them.
As part of the Byram Hills work with Challenge Success, a nonprofit that promotes engagement and well-being, the group’s co-founder Dr. Denise Pope of Stanford University came to Byram Hills in February. She spoke to 10th and 11th graders about the importance of finding a college that is the best fit for them, and gave a similar talk to several hundred parents at an evening presentation.
“It’s what you do in college, not where you go that matters,” Dr. Pope told sophomores and juniors during an assembly on February 4.
Dr. Pope referenced the Challenge Success report, “A ‘Fit’ Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity,” which reviewed key research and encourages students and families to look beyond the rankings.
She asked the Byram Hills students to rank attributes they would want in a college, and compare their responses to factors used in published college rankings to define high-ranking, highly selective schools. Those factors included name recognition, the alumni giving rate, having highly competitive admissions and small-class sizes.
“How many of you had other things listed as essential besides the ones I just named?” Dr. Pope asked students, and most raised their hands.
“Be really aware that the measures that they’re using are really subjective,” she said. “They want easy data to collect and some of these measures ignore a wide range of other things that matter.”
She asked students to consider if the level of college selectivity matters when it comes to learning, and future income, job satisfaction and well-being.
“The people who learn the most are the people who work hard and study the most at any college,” said Dr. Pope, who cited the Gallup-Purdue Index in the findings. “You could be a total slacker at Harvard and working your butt off at SUNY Purchase and this person working hard at SUNY Purchase is going to learn more than the slacker at Harvard. Going to a selective school is not going to lead to more learning. It’s not going to lead to more job satisfaction or well-being.”
The only small exception, she said, is for income when it comes to students in a traditionally underserved minority group or if they were the first generation in their family to go to college.
“Overall for most of you in this auditorium, if you go to one of the top 300 colleges in the United States, income is not going to make a difference,” she said. “For everyone in the auditorium, in terms of learning, job satisfaction and well-being, it doesn’t make a difference at all.”
What does matter when it comes to the future?
Many hands went up when Dr. Pope asked students if extracurricular activities at college were important to them, and she agreed they are essential.
Another factor she cited is the availability of professional internships. “That’s a way to apply what you learn and that does make a difference,” she said, also mentioning project-based, hands-on curriculum, the quality of teaching and the academic program, and research opportunities.
Other things students should seek in a college: Can you have a mentor, work on a multi-semester project or be part of a lab, can you become part of an extracurricular community, are there professors who care about you and who make learning exciting?
“This is what you want to be looking for in a college,” Dr. Pope said. “In the research, this is the thing that actually makes a difference to those long-term outcomes.”
And this is what she means by finding the right fit college.
“Fit is basically this engagement picture,” she told students. “Where will you thrive and engage? That’s the place that you want to go to. There are lots and lots of fits for every student. There’s not just one college out there for you.”
Mr. Walsh said Dr. Pope highlighted many of the issues that can arise when students focus on getting into college only as an end goal.
“She really tried to get our community to think about college rankings and how they are comprised and what the current rankings are missing,” he said. “Hopefully, she gave students and parents some additional confidence to push back on the current mindset around the college application process.”
During her visit, Dr. Pope also spoke with building administrators about the high school master schedule, students’ limited free time, project-based learning and authentic assessments.
The work with Challenge Success, made possible through the generous support of the Byram Hills Education Foundation, will continue, Mr. Walsh said, “with the goal of promoting a new vision of success that promotes balance and engagement.”