Congratulations to Canton High School freshman, Lauren Marze, for earning three awards at this year’s Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair last week. The awards include the Pepsico and Pfizer Life Science medal, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Award and Banning Family Life Science Award for excellence in invasive species research. The Connecticut Science and Engineering fair is a yearly, statewide science fair open to students in grades seven to twelve. It is an all-volunteer organization where over 12,000 students compete for the 600 spaces at the fair. The Fair stresses the formalism of scientific research and methods, as well as fostering the verbal and written communication skills necessary to communicate effectively in this genre.
Lauren’s inspiration for her research study came from backyard gardening and “what plants to keep and take out” in yard clean up. This led to a curiosity about invasive species and a less well-known invasive species called garlic mustard. Garlic mustard has a very unique ability to secrete chemicals into the soil, called allelochemicals (uh-lee-lo-chemicals), that hurt the growth of other plant species. This destructive ability has allowed the plant to take over Connecticut’s forests and become a very dangerous weed.
Her experiment studied the impacts of this invasive species’ chemicals on a Connecticut native plant, the Black-eyed Susan. She found that garlic mustard reduces the growth of Black-eyed Susan. Since Black-eyed Susan was impacted by garlic mustard, it would follow that more Connecticut species would be as well.
For this project, Lauren was required to complete a project plan with her experimental methods and problem addressed. Then, she completed a research report that included all of the methodology, research, and data. To participate in the Science Fair, she needed to create a detailed poster board that summarized the results and communicated her ideas to the judges with a one minute video explaining the project to the judges. Besides presenting to the CT Science & Engineering Fair Judging panel as an entrant and then as a finalist, Lauren also shared her journey and research with her peer’s in Mr. Gawitt’s biology class earlier this week.
Ms. Marsha Jorgensen served as Lauren’s mentor this year as she worked through her project development, background research, data collection/analysis and preparation for the interviews with the Judging Committee. Lauren reflects, “I am so grateful to be able to learn more about science while having fun doing it. Canton High School has been a very supporting environment for me this year even in a pandemic. After finishing my project for the year and reflecting on the experience, I learned more about a future career as a biologist and this experience reinforced my passion for science.” Congratulations, Lauren!
See Lauren's project here.