3 Manhasset H.S. seniors win science research prize

3 Manhasset H.S. seniors win science research prize
Riya Gilja, one of three Manhasset High School seniors recognized last Wednesday as a Regeneron scholar.

When the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition posted its first-round winners online last Wednesday, Kenneth Massetti, the supervisor of Manhasset High School’s social science applicants, was teaching a class. 

He received a knock on the door from his mentee Riya Gilja, one of three seniors at Manhasset High School and 58 on Long Island to receive the designation.

“I went outside and congratulated her,” he said. “She was very excited.”

The two other Manhasset High School students recognized were Michael Lee and Parker Van Roy, who were supervised by Alison Huenger, a teacher in the school’s science, technology, and health department.

Lee and Van Roy are exceptional students, said Thomas Elkins, the district coordinator for science, health and technology. “They would come in early and leave late,’’ he said. “They’re really fine young men.”

The contest, formerly sponsored by Intel, recognized 300 first-round winners nationwide, whom it refers to as “scholars.”

Forty of the scholars will be named competition finalists later this month. Finalists receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in mid-March, where they compete for a top prize of $250,000.

Lee and Van Roy received the award for research conducted in the traditional sciences, while Gilja was recognized for a study that drew upon the social sciences.

Massetti said it has been 10 years since Manhasset High School had a social science student recognized in the Science Talent Search. After reading titles of the studies of all 300 of this year’s first-round winners, Massetti estimated that just 16 of them concerned social science.

For her study, Gilja examined the American medical profession’s slow adoption of new technology available for stents, which are small tubes placed in narrow or weak heart arteries to improve blood flow. She spoke to doctors and patients about their experiences with recently developed forms of the instruments in order to determine why the Food and Drug Administration has been reluctant to grant approval for them.

Lee’s study is entitled “MFT: Improving Shallow CNN Object Tracking with Domain-Separated Feeds” and Van Roy’s is called “Differing Forms of Capillaries on Liquid Draw Height and an Expansion upon Young’s Law.”

Manhasset students who compete in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, and related contests like the Siemens Competition, develop their work in a research course taken every semester of their high school education, Elkins said.

The Siemens competition bases its evaluation solely on a student’s research, while the Regeneron Science Talent Search takes into account the student’s grades, extracurricular activities and standardized test scores, he added.

“Because [Regeneron] looks at the whole student, we have less control,” Elkins said.

For each Regeneron first-round award given, the recipient and his or her school each receive $2,000 prizes. The Manhasset High School prize money will be split between the science research program and the social science research program.

Elkins said the science research program will invest the winnings in student resources.

“The money will be used to buy equipment, almost exclusively,” he said.

Massetti said he had not thought about what the social science research program would do with its prize money, reiterating the tall odds the program’s students face.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “You don’t do it to win.”

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