BLS Succeeds at State Science Fair


View the graph for Alice Liu’s (II) 2nd place MSEF 2021 science project. (Source: Alice Liu (II))

By Darren Seto (III), Contributing Writer

On May 5, Boston Latin School students showcased their independent research science projects and proposals at the 2021 Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair (MSEF), winning 27 awards altogether.

This year, the City and State Science Fairs implemented a special division where students could submit project proposals. Research projects and proposals were based on various science topics ranging from molecular biology to computational biology.

Alice Liu (II), earning the overall second-place prize in the high school division, presented her project entitled “Quantum Annealing and Turn Ancilla Encoding with 2D Lattice Protein Folding for Drug Discovery Implications”. John Lin (I), earning the overall third-place prize, presented his project titled “Detecting Differential Transcription Factor Binding Using Single-Cell DNA Accessibility.” Both Liu and Lin moved forward and competed in the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2021, where Lin earned a second-place prize in the cellular and molecular biology division.

Inspired by previous scientific studies and the current news, Alex Xu (IV) researched the effects of COVID-19 on the air filtration systems in the subway. He monitored the air quality underground starting at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I wanted to see if Boston authorities had responded appropriately to the threat this past year and how it affected the circulation of the air,” says Xu.

The state competition, lasting two to three days, was held virtually through an online platform where students partook in 30-minute competition blocks. During these blocks, students were evaluated in multiple areas, including their scientific approach, analysis of project, creativity and project development. After giving their presentations, students participated in an interview with their judges.

Having competed in previous years, Liu notes that her experience due to the pandemic has been different, saying, “There have been a lot more independent aspects this year, whereas in the past, it felt more connected presenting to judges face-to-face.”

Behind the scenes, students received guidance from Science Department Director Ms. Kathleen Bateman, eighth-grade science teacher Mr. Scott Balicki and seventh-grade science teacher Ms. Raquel Jacobson-Peregrino. Ms. Jacobson-Peregrino led the middle-schoolers through the Junior Division, while Mr. Balicki led the high-schoolers through the Senior Division.

Over the summer, middle-schoolers worked with their advisor as they started to brainstorm and design their research questions that were later tested. Similarly, the high schoolers received support throughout the research process by receiving feedback during Friday Flex Blocks.

The teachers reflect on the challenges and differences this year. Ms. Jacobson-Peregrino comments, “I know that during an in-person experience, you get to spend your day at the State Science Fair, and it’s a bonding experience for kids to really develop their sense of community and shared interest.”

Despite the barriers that came with the experience this year, Mr. Balicki and Ms. Jacobson-Peregrino were able to invite experts in biology and astrophysics to provide further insight on students’ projects and proposals, contributing to their achievements.

Mr. Balicki reflects on the students’ success this year, saying, “I am very impressed with the students’ perseverance and persistence throughout the process this year of adapting to new rules, and I’m just happy that we can provide students a venue to follow their passions.”