A True Star In Science Research: Audrey Saltzman

By Renner Kwittken

Science Research offers many benefits for the small group of BHHS students in the program. The students are usually very driven, hard working, and do not leave assignments half finished. For those who don’t know, students in the Authentic Science Research program study one topic of their choice over the course of three years. Topics range from eating worms to theoretical physics. ASR students submit their work to the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition and numerous others, hoping for a degree of recognition for all of their hard work. In this article, Audrey Saltzman, a senior in the program, will be highlighted for her outstanding work, as well as the countless obstacles she overcame to get to the point she is at now.

In the short amount of time I have known Audrey, I have already gotten the impression that she is an extremely hardworking and driven student. Besides Science Research, Audrey has taken six AP classes, founded and is Co-President of the Freshman Science Research Club, is Co-Captain of the LD Debate team, Co-President of the Science Olympiad team, competes in the Area All-State Music Competition, and plays in the pit for a number of Byram’s school musicals. You may ask, how does she balance all of this stuff that she does? She admits, “the hardest part about all years of Science Research for me was striking a balance between everything I wanted to do. I tend to work in waves. For example, when I was teaching myself Regents physics, I was not as active in debate, but then I debated more in the Spring.” Every student here at Byram Hills struggles to some degree to balance the mountain of work that lays ahead of most.

Audrey definitely leaves a mark on those she interacts with. When asked about Audrey, Mr. Keith replied, “Audrey is fundamentally kind and humble. She doesn’t suffer fools well, but she has infinite patience for anyone who is struggling to become a better student, or a better human being.” A number of us wish we possessed those qualities, and Audrey demonstrates them everyday in her interaction with those around her. Mr. Keith said in Audrey’s freshman application, she was “frustrated that the labs we do in school have already been done and checked thousands of times. She said that what she wanted was ‘to be at the forefront of innovation.’” She has kept with this same determination and mindset throughout her entire Science Research career, arguably choosing one of the most complex and emerging topics possible. From her first meeting with Mr. Keith, she was interested in space and proving the existence of quark stars, an impressive feat even for a graduate student. While she didn’t prove the existence of quark stars, her study is, “the clearest detections of reprocessed emission, for a neutron star, to date.” She studies the structure of neutron stars. It doesn’t matter if you understand what that means or not, all that matters is you seeing all of the work she has done, and appreciating and recognizing the process she had to go through to get there.

(Image by Audrey Saltzman)

However, it’s not without pain, and hundreds of hours of tedious work that she has gotten to where she is today. During her sophomore year, she taught herself Regents Physics and read about 60 lay articles surrounding introductory college physics. She did not have much help during this process and encountered numerous setback, which hindered her process. In the summer between her sophomore and junior year, she went through the book Math for Physics with Calculus, which was even harder to understand because over the summer, she had even less people to help her with problems she got wrong. Junior year, she found her mentor (most Science Research students find their mentor sophomore year), Dr. Miller, and he gave her assignments with a plethora of instructions. It mostly consisted of “figure this obscure program out, or figure out this advanced concept, and then contact me again.” Then she really started to grind and do tons of work. The summer before senior year, she did 300 hours of work and read about 20-40 advanced Journal Articles. Audrey completed a large amount of her work independently with minimal outside support and came out of it with extraordinary results.

All of this has made her into a better person and student. The fact that she has survived the onslaught of work and setbacks says enough about her character and her determination. She has became “a stronger student all around, but particularly in math and science, for all of the general math and physics studying [she] did. Studying what can sometimes be an abstract project has helped [her] to think more abstractly. [She is] also willing to take on more difficult challenges and generally have more confidence in [her] abilities.” Many people who have completed the Science Research program have also reaped similar rewards, plus many more. Audrey’s true advice to other people is to “do what you love … I am so glad I followed my passion to study astrophysics, particularly neutron stars. You really can do almost anything.”