A new challenge for Central science scholars

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The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District held its first Advanced Science Research Day at Long Island University Post on Nov. 17.

“I don’t want to hurt it,” John F. Kennedy High School sophomore Liam Orr said as he laughed nervously and slipped on a pair of rubber gloves.

Orr was preparing to inject a wax worm with a bacterium that causes meningitis, in a research session in clinical microbiology that was part of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s first Advanced Science Research Retreat at LIU Post on Nov. 17.

All of the sophomores enrolled in the district’s Advanced Science Research program took part in the event, which included a tour of the LIU Interprofessional Simulation Center, lab experiments led by the school’s professors and a panel discussion featuring several undergraduate science students.

“We felt that this was a great place to give kids that connection to see what university-level research is like,” said Robert Soel, chairman of the district’s science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, program.

Students enroll in the ASR program at the end of their freshman year, and begin brainstorming research projects as sophomores. By starting the program with an interactive tour of LIU, Soel said, he wanted to help students meet one another, connect with mentors and find inspiration for their projects. He added that many program alumni have conducted their projects under the mentorship of LIU professors.

The students’ day began with a look at the university’s simulation center, which is set up to look like a hospital and is used by students pursuing degrees in health sciences. Stacey Gropack, dean of the School of Health Professions and Nursing, led students into the center’s maternity ward. “Poor thing in here — she gives birth seven times a day,” Gropack joked, gesturing to a lifelike mannequin programmed to vomit and mimic other bodily functions.

“It was like actually being in a hospital,” said Lindsay Brown, a sophomore at Calhoun High School. “Getting that experience must be so convenient in the comfort of your own school.”

After the tour, Brown took part in LIU Professor Ted Brummel’s research session on molecular biology, which involved measuring protein intake in fruit flies. In another session, students observed how factors like heat and starvation cause stress in yeast cells. “These are quintessential skills we might need in our research,” said Jacob Liebovitz, another Calhoun sophomore, as he examined the cells through a microscope.

Liebovitz said he intended to make immunology the focus of his project, specifically to determine which vaccines are most affective. Asked what inspired him, he said, “Vaccines help you use your body to your advantage,” and added, “I just like helping people.”