Hewlett High School’s research program has generated a string of successes in prestigious science competitions, including two consecutive grand prize-winning teams. From left, the team of regional finalists, Michael Green, Ayman Haider and Stephen Ng; teacher Dr. Terence Bissoondial; and the team that won the grand prize, Priyanka Wadgaonkar, Zainab Mahmood and JiaWen Pei.
Three students from Hewlett High School won the $100,000 grand prize in the Siemens Math, Science and Technology Competition for the second year in a row earlier this month — nearly 15 years after a decision by the Board of Education paved the way for their success.
Stephanie Gould, a former Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education president who came to the board in the mid-1990s, remembers hearing about neighboring Long Island high schools winning various research competitions. “We knew we had to put money into a research program and hire a coordinator to work with the students so they’re submitting everything properly as well as the right kind of studies,” Gould said. “We thought it was worth it to put the money into the budget to have this program instead of hoping a student entered the competition on their own. We wanted to put money into the program so students would have the chance to win; that’s what you have to do.”
At the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year, the district spent $1,507 to get the research program up and running. The following year, it spent $7,500. In 1999, Dr. Terrence Bissoondial was hired as a science teacher, and these days he works with students, typically for three to four years, on their research projects.
“My duties are to teach the students the basic techniques and principles of research in specific research classes that meet daily throughout the academic year,” Bissoondial said. “Sometimes we apply these principles to answer research-related questions.”
He presents students with topics for their plant biology-based research projects. “I expect a certain level of ability and performance from my students,” he said. “I found that when students rise to meet these challenges on their own merits, they’re able to do well when placed in stressful circumstances like the Siemens Competition.”