By Remi Matza
Prior to sophomore year, every Byram Hills student contemplates whether or not they will take the bold risk of joining Science Research. While some students are enthralled by the academic freedom and professionalism of the course, others are deterred by the daunting workload. However, there are always the brave souls with a passion for learning that embrace the rumors of late nights, 50-page papers, and hours spent crying, and build up the courage to walk into room 114 on the first day of school.
For 30 years the Robert Pavlica Authentic Science Research Program (ASR) has been offered at Byram Hills as a way for young emerging scientists to pursue excellence in advanced areas of original research. These students spend three years researching any topic they’d like in order to ultimately conduct a study with a mentor at a university. ASR students learn about groundbreaking topics, read complex journal articles, maintain contact with professionals in their field of study, and learn to create and present extensive presentations.
With wide eyes, the sophomores take a seat in the classroom; they look around and see photos of students at science competitions, a glass board with names of labs and universities at which students conducted research, and several upperclassmen who seem to be completely well-adjusted and relaxed. It is intimidating, and frankly terrifying, to walk into a room filled with such capable students and teachers. On day one, most sophomores all think the same thing: I am not going to make it through this class. But by day ten things start to get a little easier, and by day 30 you realize that the rumors are indeed just rumors. And before you know it, those wide-eyed sophomores become seniors finally submitting to Regeneron.
The ultimate culmination of the program is when seniors submit their research to the Regeneron Science Talent Search Competition. This is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious competition for science and mathematics and fosters the inspiration of promising high school seniors in these fields. Dr. Caroline Matthew, one of the ASR teachers, explained that having the seniors submit research to Regeneron “has always helped to mold our curriculum and set a rigorously high bar for the quality of work that is produced by our students.” The competition pushes students to work their hardest and to get a real sense of what the scientific world is like.
In addition to motivating seniors, Regeneron also gives seniors an overall feeling of pride and accomplishment when they finally complete their research. ASR senior Jamie Kaplan claims that “the feeling you get after submitting makes all the really difficult moments worth it.” This is an essential idea that can be applied throughout all facets of life; it is overcoming the challenges you face that make you feel the most proud. “Every student has their own personal struggle filled with triumphs and obstacles,” says the director of the ASR program, Mrs. Stephanie Greenwald, but when students find the light at the end of the tunnel, and “when they finally produce this incredible piece of work that they are ready to share with the world, it is concrete evidence of their determination, passion and stamina.”
In celebration of the ASR Class of 2022 completing their submission to Regeneron, I would like to remind the seniors to think about how they felt on their first day of sophomore year. For those of you who thought “I am not going to make it through this class,” just know that you did in fact make it through. From nervous, wide-eyed sophomores, you have grown into remarkable young scientists; congratulations!