STEM Symposium Sends 5 Students to Represent State

The top five honorees from the 2022 Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, sponsored by UConn Health and organized by the Connecticut Area Health Education Center (CT AHEC), are on their way to a national symposium next month in New Mexico.

Screen grab of five students on web conference

Students Lily Donzeiser, Maya Rose Chiravuri (top, from left), Sebastian Mengwall, Snigtha Mohanraj (middle, from left), and Ryan Kim have been selected to represent Connecticut at the April 2022 National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Image from Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, held virtually March 5, 2022.)

These talented students will do an amazing job representing our state next month at the national competition. — Dr. Brittany Knight

The five Connecticut high school students who earned top honors this month at the 59th annual Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (CT-JSHS) will travel to New Mexico in April to the national Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

The symposium was sponsored by UConn Health and organized by the Connecticut Area Health Education Center (CT AHEC). In recent years, this event had been held at UConn Health in Farmington until it went virtual in 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

This year, 36 of the more than 90 student applicants were chosen to present their research findings to a panel of judges in February, and then to an audience of their peers at the March 5th symposium. Another 36 students exhibited their posters online.

“I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the research presented at this year’s Connecticut regional symposium and the passion this year’s presenters have for STEM,” said Dr. Brittany Knight, director of the CT-JSHS program. “These talented students will do an amazing job representing our state next month at the national competition.”

Among the 16 students who orally presented their original research in the science, technology, engineering or math fields, four were chosen to be part of the Connecticut delegation to the national JSHS April 20-23 in Albuquerque:

1st Place: Snigtha Mohanraj, freshman, Engineering and Science University Magnet School, for her investigation into the design of a filter utilizing metal oxides to remove microplastics and oil from water.

2nd Place: Sebastian Mengwall, senior, Darien High School, for his research on improving cloud identification on Mars using a deep learning model.

3rd Place: Ryan Kim, junior, Choate Rosemary Hall, for developing a traffic control system using artificial intelligence. As the highest academically ranked junior in the symposium, he has also been selected to receive the UConn Academic Excellence Scholarship.

4th Place: Lily Donzeiser, senior, Darien High School, for her study of the evolutionary responses to climate change of the scarlet tanager, a migratory songbird.

From among the 20 students who presented their research in poster format, the top poster honoree was selected to be the fifth member of the Connecticut delegation at the national symposium:

1st Place Poster Presenter: Maya Rose Chiravuri, junior, Choate Rosemary Hall, for her poster presentation on development of a home test for early detection of congestive heart failure.

“With the new normal of us all living through a pandemic of COVID-19 — and its ups and downs — your interest and contributions to the fields of medicine, science, technology, and math are all the more critical,” Dr. Bruce T. Liang, dean of the UConn School of Medicine and interim UConn Health CEO and executive vice president for health affairs. “We are all so proud of you and your educational and research pursuits. And maybe someday you will be a future doctor, dentist, scientist, biotech inventor, or public health expert training or working right here at UConn Health.”

Following are the additional top-placed presenters:

5th Place Oral Presenter: Gouri Krishnan, junior, King School

6th Place Oral Presenter: Audrey Lin, sophomore, Greenwich High School

7th Place Oral Presenter: William Bernfeld, senior, King School

8th Place Oral Presenter: Avni Kabra, sophomore, East Lyme High School

9th Place Oral Presenter: Naomi Park, sophomore, Greenwich High School

10th Place Oral Presenter: Elizabeth Wallace, junior, Greenwich High School

2nd Place Poster Presenter: John Russell, junior, King School

3rd Place Poster Presenter: Ambika Grover, junior, Greenwich High School

Angela Ferraro, a senior at Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture Science and Technology Education Center, and Snigtha Mohanraj, the first place oral presenter, were each awarded the 2022 Backyard Scientist award. This honor recognizes students who may not have had access to summer research programs or professional labs, but made creative use of resources “in their own backyards.”

CT-JSHS nominated two junior-year participants for the U.S. Department of Education’s Presidential Scholar Award: Melinda Lu of Amity Regional High School and Adeethyia Shankar of Brookfield High School. Final selections will be made at the national level.

The sponsors of the scholarship awards and cash prizes are the national Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, Connecticut Science Supervisors Association, the Connecticut Science Teachers Association, and the UConn Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Additionally, CT-JSHS was made possible by sponsorship from UConn Health Center and Connecticut Area Health Education Center, under contract with the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). The Connecticut symposium is part of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Program.

Ellen Ravens-Seger