Science Symposium Showcases Students’ Original Research Projects

Possible cures for cancer, therapies for tumors, and the impact of cyber terrorism. These were among the topics presented by Science Research Students at Milken’s annual Science Symposium. Held on Sunday, February 11, the event was a time for the students to shine. Family, friends, and faculty gathered in the Guerin Family Institute For Advanced Sciences to learn about the exciting independent projects that students have been working on, some of them focusing on three-year projects.

“People got to see our students are doing real research that is making a difference in their field,” said Science Research Teacher Polly Kim. Students tackled challenging scientific problems and created innovative solutions.

Aaron Feldman ’18 presented his analysis of post-stroke impairments that affect arm motion. It wasn’t the first time that he has shared his work. In December, he presented his findings on stroke rehabilitation at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Signal Processing in Medicine and Biology Symposium at Temple University. Feldman had the distinction of being the only high school student presenting at the Symposium; the rest of the presenters were graduate students and professionals.

Josh Afshani ’18 examined cyberterrorism and its dramatic impact on insurance and security companies. He received guidance from his mentor, alumnus Michael Hakimi ’08, who was in the Science Research Program while at Milken and was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Some students had personal connections to their projects. A concussion he suffered playing water polo led Doron Pakravan ’20 to explore how to prevent concussions in sports. Kayla Levine ’20 studied ACL injuries after tearing her ACL and meniscus playing basketball. She wanted to find out what kind of surgery would be the best option, what she could do to make her rehabilitation go faster, and how to prevent the injury from reoccurring.

The three-year Science Research Program is part of of Milken’s Mitchell Academy of Science and Technology (MAST). During their sophomore year, students connect with mentors, learn how to conduct research, and investigate science topics. In the summer after sophomore year, students begin working in university labs such as USC and UCLA. Juniors take it a step further and develop their own hypotheses with mentors and refine their writing and presentation skills. Seniors complete their projects and submit to the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search — formerly the Intel Science Talent Search.

The Science Symposium is held each year with the following format: Sophomores present their topic of interest, juniors describe their ongoing research, and seniors present their completed projects.

While most students don’t even begin research until they are undergraduates, students in the Science Research program are already in labs working with scientists by the time they are sophomores. Jonathan Abrams ’19 is the only high school student in the neurogenetic lab at UCLA. Working there has helped Abrams pursue his interest in science and provided him with an invaluableexperience. “It’s one thing to learn about genetics in class but another to be genotyping in a lab and contributing to research that will make a difference,” he noted. “It’s learning versus doing.”

Josh Levine ’19 presented on room temperature superconductivity and trying to confirm the existence of a levitating superconductor at room temperature. That is important he says because it’s a new innovation that can revolutionize the way we consume power and electricity.
The research program has, Levine says, taught him valuable skills to use outside of science such as how to present, how to do research, and how to reach out to labs.

Students enjoyed sharing their work with the community and received positive feedback from those in attendance. Eliya Makebeh ’19, who is exploring immune based therapies for glioblastomas at the Prins Lab at UCLA, said the symposium was a great way to share her experiences with parents and faculty and spark their interest in her topic.

“This year I was especially proud because I’ve gone through the entire three year process with the seniors and it is amazing to see how far they’ve come,” said Kim. Students interested in learning more about the Science Research Program can contact Polly Kim at
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Milken School is a college prep private day school in Los Angeles established on the foundation of the highest academic standards and Jewish values. This Jewish Day School serves students in grades 7-12.

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