Student Research Topics - Montville Township School District

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Montville Township High School
100 HORSENECK ROAD ● MONTVILLE, NJ 07045 ● (973) 331-7100
Greg Maceri, Supervisor of Mathematics, Science and Business Technology
Dr. Dorine Starace, Science Teacher
Mrs. Rachel Salazar, Science Teacher
Science Research Topics 2012-13
Sophomores
1. Communication with Optical Physics by Randall Devitt
The topic I am researching is quantum communication with an optical approach. I am looking at a
new way to send information and process information using quantum properties. To research this, I
am looking at an optical approach including lasers, where laser orientation is changed and variables
are created using properties of quantum physics. These properties of quantum physics allow
expansion of speed rates and capabilities with information processing and communication. An
optical approach to quantum information processing allows more of the process to be physical, and
hands on. The concepts are less theoretical and can be replicated in the real world. Included in the
field are methods to create quantum computers, super-fast computers using quantum properties to
become secure and powerful.
2. Making Rivers more Efficient by Patrick Egan
Hello my name is Patrick Egan and I am in the Science Research course. My original topic was
finding a way to make nuclear power plants safer by improving their coolant systems. This topic
proved too dangerous for a high school student. I have now switched my topic to a more
conventional form of power, hydroelectric. My main goal in studying dams is to explore ways to
improve their electric output; for example if there is not enough water flowing through the dam,
they pump some water back up reusing it to create more electricity. I have been very interested in
using the power of water ever since I was little when I used to visit the shore every weekend. A
new advancement in hydroelectric power is harvesting the power of the tides. In order to increase
efficiency there has to be ways to stop things like shells, fish and sand from blocking up the
turbine. In this way we can increase electricity output in any areas that are close to the coast.
3. A New Method for Preventing Food Poisoning by Paige Hammell
My topic is the antimicrobial and antibacterial effects of essential oils used to kill pathogens found
in food that can give us food poisoning. Essential oils are derived from common culinary herbs like
oregano, thyme, and peppermint. The essential oil is derived from the plant through a process
called hydrodistillation in which the plant is boiled in water and the heat causes the sacs that hold
the plant’s oils to burst. The oil floats to the top of the mixture and then can be removed. The
essential oils have an antibiotic effect because of their unique mix of chemicals that have
antibacterial properties. Each essential oil has different chemicals and different amounts of the
chemicals, which causes some essential oils to be more effective than others. Some of these
chemical are myrcene, linalool, and limonene. Phenolic compounds and carvacrol seem to be
especially important to the antibacterial effects of the essential oils. Scientists are not sure what
exactly what effect essential oils have on the bacteria cell to kill it, but they do have some theories.
It is suggested that essential oils affect membrane permeability by making the membrane more
permeable so the essential oils can go into the cell. The essential oils could also disrupt cellular
respiration, depriving the cell of energy.
4. Bacteriophage – Another Weapon against Bacteria by Justin Huang
I am interested in bacteriophage (phage) and their proteins, endolysins and holins, as my topic for
the program. Bacteriophages are viruses that specifically attack bacteria and, like normal viruses,
they use the host cell to produce copies of themselves. It is significant that they attack bacteria
regardless of their resistance to antibiotics, since antibiotic resistance has become a growing
problem in the medical field. It is also significant that phage are specific to the bacteria that they
attack, meaning that, unlike antibiotics, phage don't kill everything indiscriminately. Once phage
infect and replicate within their bacterial host, a phage enzyme called endolysin breaks down
peptidoglycan in the cell walls of bacteria. This weakens the bacterial cell wall from within, causes
the bacteria to burst from internal pressure (lysis), and thereby allows the new copies of the phage
to leave the bacteria during the infective cycle. It is also possible to apply endolysins from the
outside of the cells for medical purposes such as treatment bacterial infections. Holins, another set
of phage proteins, act as a clock for the phage, because they determine when lysis of the bacteria
cell occurs. At a certain point after phage infection, holins create holes in the bacterial membrane
to allow passage of endolysins through the membrane to the cell wall. The reason for this is to give
time for the production of more copies of phage. My research focuses on finding out how these
viruses and their proteins can be used to cure bacterial diseases, especially ones that cannot be
cured by antibiotics.
5. Stem Cells and Diabetes by Thomas Marabondo
Diabetes is a metabolic disease caused by insufficient production of insulin, or a body’s cells not
responding properly to insulin. It affects nearly 5% of the population. Scientists are using stem
cells to grow beta cells, which produce insulin. Insulin must be released by the beta cells, in
response to blood glucose levels of the blood. Currently research is being done to determine the
best stem cells to grow beta cells. Researchers hope to be able to grow properly functioning beta
cells and transplant them into a patient's pancreas in order to treat diabetes
6. Natural Remedies to Effectively Treat Cancer by James Min
The topic I am working on is finding natural remedies that help with preventing and fighting
cancer. I believe this is a worthwhile topic because although there is a lot of speculation as to how
natural remedies work, there has never been a solid scientific community backing it. I wish to
strive to create this backing, because if this type of research becomes backed with more evidence, it
will provide individuals who lack the financial capacity to pay for treatment to have an effective
and inexpensive method to treat their cancer. I have been researching the cacao seed (chocolate!).
More specifically, I am looking into protein fractionation of the cacao seeds to see what component
of chocolate most directly and effectively fights cancer. Similar work has also been done on
the Ganoderma lucidum (traditional Chinese mushroom), apricot seeds, and cinnamaldehyde
(found in cinnamon sticks and bark). Furthermore, all cancer-effective molecules found in the
natural substances have similar molecular structures and all target some component vital to the cell
cycle. A key component in the treatment of cancer is inducing apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
While treatments such as chemotherapy induce apoptosis, it kills healthy cells as well, whereas
natural remedies target only the cancer cells. All have potentially very effective proteins that could
help in treating cancer patients for a cheap and affordable price.
7. The Search for WIMP Dark Matter by Ram Patel
The topic I am interested in is the search for a Dark Matter particle. The research topic I am
exploring specifically focuses on the existence of hypothetical Weakly Interacting Massive
Particles (WIMP) and the effort to detect them through gamma ray observations in space, or in the
data of atom smashers. WIMPs cannot be detected easily through our modern day equipment. The
data collected from our detectors have to be carefully analyzed and observations in space have to
be in a location to detect the expulsion of gamma rays when the two supersymmetric particles
interact with each other. I am interested in this area of research because finding a new particle that
explains dark matter and adds to the Standard Model of physics is fascinating. Moreover, by
understanding the underlying particle responsible for dark matter we can begin to understand how
dark matter and dark energy behave and how they affect us.
8. Microbial Fuel Cells: The Future of Clean Energy by Joseph Puleo
For many years it has been known that chemical energy can be harnessed from microbes and
bacteria. However, microbial fuel alternatives have only recently been explored and made possible
for everyday use because of our growing energy needs. In microbial fuel cells, bacteria, attached to
an anode, break down certain things such as water, sugars, and organic materials in the surrounding
solution (wastewater). Electrons released during the metabolic breakdown are captured by the
anode and flow through the circuit into a cathode, creating an electric current. Hydrogen atoms
released in the breaking down of water move through a proton exchange membrane and combine
with the electrons held in the cathode. Oxygen is brought in from an external source to create water
with the electrons and hydrogen. Using this process, scientists from Penn. State were able to put
waste water into a specialized single chamber microbial fuel cell, and produce electricity and clean
water. Using the bacteria and organic material in the water, everything required for the microbial
fuel cell to work was already present. They discovered that the simultaneous production of
electricity and clean fresh water was possible, which opened up a whole new area in science,
research, and technological advances. Though much more research is needed and this new process
is not yet very efficient, the production of electricity during waste water treatment has huge
potential to create clean free energy and water.
9. The Potential of Regenerative Medicine by Margish Ramani
The vast field of stem cells has numerous applications. From inducing pluripotent stem cells to
terminating cancer, stem cell research has the potential to find cures for some of the most
prominent diseases like diabetes, leukemia, and even Alzheimer’s. My research focuses on
regenerative medicine using somatic cells and defined factors to create patient-specific organs (in
particular, regeneration of brain tissue and nervous system cells). The ability to create
individualized organs would essentially extend a human’s life expectancy and give patients without
a body part or organ another chance with a transplant of an organ created from their own cells. This
topic fascinates me because such a technology would revolutionize organ transplantations since no
donor would be necessary and everyone in need of an organ could receive one. Moreover, patients
in need of new arms, legs, or even nerve cells (those paralyzed) could be whole again, could run,
jump, and become independent for life with the kinds of advances in regenerative medicine made
possible with stem cell research
10. Advanced Propulsion Systems by Pujan Shah
For the Science Research program, I am focusing on advanced propulsion systems for deep space
travel. This includes rockets and other hypothetical propulsion techniques. These topics interest me
because there is a growing need for new propulsion techniques to allow faster travel into the outer
reaches of our solar system and beyond. Lately, I have been exploring a theoretically allowed form
of travel called warp drive that results in spacecraft travel about ten times the speed of light by
warping space around it. I have also been focusing on various types of thrusters such as ion
propulsion and hall thrusters that provide new ways for spacecrafts to travel faster and farther.
These new techniques open up a whole new field in the sciences for research to take place. The
Science Research program allows me to deeply explore a topic that I am really interested in over
the next three years.
11. Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum – the Lost Pathway by Sam Tabakian
My topic for the science research course is agenesis of the corpus callosum. This is a mental
disorder in which the corpus callosum, the structure which connects the two hemispheres of the
brain, fails to or only partially forms. I am mainly focusing on the behavioral aspects of this
disorder and the techniques to model and quantify various behavioral markers. I am also learning
and researching how the decision-making capabilities of ACC patients compare to a “normal”
group of people.
12. Big Man on Hippocampus: the Relationship between the Brain and the Immune System by
Noah Weinflash
Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the effect of the brain on the immune system and vice
versa. This encompasses many different subjects, including behavioral conditioning and the
placebo effect. This is really interesting to me because the brain is an incredibly complex and
important organ, but not much is known about it. Despite extensive research, we don’t quite
understand how many things work in the brain. Its relationship with the immune system is one of
them. The relationship is further complicated because everyone responds to disease and pain
uniquely, so there is not an easy way to quantify immune response and brain response by simply
asking people questions. Therefore, experiments must be set up very carefully to make sure that the
results cannot be attributed to things such as people lying about how they feel or the scientists
being biased. Overall, this research field is exciting, new, and ever growing, and is extremely
interesting to me.
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