Hamden Hall Country Day School

Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

SID Students Take Science Prowess to the Fair

Hamden Hall’s signature Science, Innovation & Design program saw an increased number of participants take part in various science fairs around the state this year.

According to the program’s director, Dr. Frank Gasparro, one of the goals of the school’s Science, Innovation & Design (SID) program is to encourage students to submit entries to science fairs. SID participants pursue independent research projects under the mentorship of Dr. Gasparro. Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald is also a SID advisor.

This year, despite COVID-related challenges, five Upper School students submitted materials to the Connecticut Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Program, which is hosted by UConn, as well as Quinnipiac University’s Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair. Juniors Sophie Schonberger, Daniel Vash, and Lucy Xu; and sophomores Evan Huang and Leo Southam shared their research and findings that were gleaned both on campus and off.

Dr. Gasparro noted that several of the projects are under the umbrella of anticancer research that was started at Hamden Hall during the initial year of the SID program in 2011-2012 when Alexandru Buhimschi 2013 began investigating “76 compounds synthesized by a Duke University collaborator.” The title of his 2012 UConn science fair project was “Improved and Novel Methods for Assessment of Psoralens as Theragnostic Anticancer Agents.”

“These drugs are candidates for possibly life-saving cancer therapies,” said Dr. Gasparro, who has been studying psoralens since 1980. 

According to Dr. Gasparro, both Lucy Xu and Daniel Vash worked in his “new science digs” at 1140 Whitney Avenue using “fairly sophisticated equipment” for their science forays. Lucy’s presentation, “Spectrophotometric Determination of the DNA Binding Constant for a Novel Anticancer Drug,” continued the Gasparro/Buhimschi thread. Daniel Vash’s “Effect of Hydroxyapatite Encapsulation on the Diffusion of Avobenzone Across a Human Skin Model Membrane,” is a continuation of prior research on sunscreen safety.  

“Senior Harry Han and I are the patent authors,” explained Dr. Gasparro of the provisional patent that he and Harry submitted last year. “Daniel added a new wrinkle and his name will be added to the patent if we proceed to the next patent stage.” 

Sophie Schonberger also performed some work in Dr. Gasparro’s lab on her presentation “Sunglasses’ True Ability to Block UV Light Compared to that which is Advertised.” Dr. Fitzgerald was co-advisor on Sophie's project.

“It is important to figure out how effective sunglasses are at blocking UV rays coming from the sun,” said Sophie in her video presentation.

Evan Huang wrote a theoretical paper analysis at his home called “Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Swimming Athletic Performance.” Leo Southam also worked independently on his presentation, “Using SiO2 Spray to Reduce Microplastics Dissolved into the Oceans.”

“I was really happy with the level of SID member participation in Connecticut science fairs this year as it was the first time we had five submissions. I want to commend all of these science fair participants for their dogged determination during the COVID-impacted year,” said Dr. Gasparro.
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    • Science, Innovation & Design Program students participated in virtual science fairs across the state.

Hamden Hall Country Day School

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