The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Seniors present research during annual tjSTAR

Karen Lee
Seniors Amith Polineni and Dora Bowen-Glazeroff present their project on automated aquaponics, which they set up in the school’s greenhouse. “I think everything went very well. We practiced a ton. I don’t really have any regrets, I loved how it went,” Polineni said. “We got visuals to show everyone so everything went really well. Having a live demo where you can manipulate something in front of the audience really helped so that they could understand what you’re saying.”

On Tuesday, May 21, as the school year comes to an end, Jefferson seniors presented their year-long senior research project at the Thomas Jefferson Symposium to Advance Research (tjSTAR). One of the many unique opportunities students receive at Jefferson include the senior research labs, where students research a specific topic and question. 

With nine different labs that students can choose from, there are specific classes that students must take to be in certain labs. 

“I picked Astronomy because I thought it was very interesting. I have always had a deep interest in the subject since I was in kindergarten,” senior Ojas Katpatal said. “Going to college, I knew I wasn’t going to get to study it as much, so I decided on doing the research lab to have some fun while learning more about astronomy.” 

Senior research labs provide students with valuable knowledge in their respective fields. Not only do they provide students with proper research experience, they also teach students how to use and operate certain technologies, some of which are unavailable to students even in college. 

“I learned a lot about web scraping and natural language processing, which are both very important in the collection and understanding of data,” senior Vayun Malik said. “Now that I know these skills, I’m more likely to succeed in my future career.” 

Students brainstorm their research topic at the beginning of the year before refining their proposal and carrying out their project under the guidance of lab directors. Seniors Dora Bowen-Glazeroff, Daniel Chua and Amith Polineni’s project was about an automated aquaponics system that they set up in the school’s greenhouse. 

“I wanted a project that [I] could show off to my friends,” Chua said. “So now, you can see [the aquaponics system] in the greenhouse, and every time I pass by it, I point people to it and [tell them] that I made it with [my group].” 

With the tjSTAR presentations being the final step of students’ research, putting together the presentation required students to compile a year’s worth of research into one slideshow. 

“We’ve been working on it all year and the engineering lab directors have been making us write engineering journals that we filled out every week,” Polineni said. “They said that these journals would help us design our final presentation. They really did help for our final presentation because we knew exactly what we did every week.” 

Additionally, the hard work that was put into the project all year, from the earliest stages to the final product, made Bowen-Glazeroff excited to present her project. 

“I would say the presentation was mostly [exciting], I was excited to show [it] off to everyone who was there watching,” Bowen-Glazeroff said. “I was proud of my project, I’d worked hard on it all year so that was something I was glad to show off.”

Siwen Shen, a sophomore who watched the tjSTAR presentation about the automated aquaponics system was very interested by the unique project idea that incorporated various fields of science into the project. 

“I thought it was cool that they had the idea to do something like automatic farming. In the end, [they were] able to achieve their goal, even though it was the size that they were expecting it to be,” Shen said. “It was interesting how they could incorporate [computer science] into their project to send emails to themselves about the welfare of the whole system.” 

Unlike Jefferson students, most other high schools in the nation do not have opportunities for students to conduct a research project of this scale. This privilege is open to every senior, to produce a presentation of advancing modern techniques.

“Don’t be lazy,” Chua said. “There were some groups that took the time for granted. Even though we worked during every single period given to us, there were still things that we thought we could have done better than things that we didn’t get to. You don’t want to be at tjSTAR with an incomplete presentation because that’s slightly embarrassing. [But], you should still enjoy the experience and have fun with your project while still being productive.”

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