Project in Mathematical Physics: “Celestial Mechanics”


Lotta Blumberg, Connor Brennan, Chris Criscitiello, Nikita Deshpande, Ellen Guo, Pranjal Gupta, Kevin He, Leo Hentschker, Sumun Iyer, Jeffrey Kuan, Kenneth Luo, Ritesh Ragavender

Advisor: Dr. Steve Surace & Dr. Robert Murawski  Assistant: Melissa Hoffman


This paper provides a mathematical foundation for the laws governing astronomical kinematics. Starting with Newton’s second law and the Universal Law of Gravity, we derived Kepler’s three laws of orbital motion. We used these equations, together with spherical trigonometric techniques, in order to create a theoretical model for predicting the location of celestial bodies in relation to Earth. Upon testing our model by looking at the rise and set times for the Sun and Saturn with respect to the Earth, we found that our work agrees with experimental data compiled by NASA to within minutes. This model can easily be extended to calculate the celestial location of other planets in relation to the earth.


Project in Psychology: “Cognitive Illusions: Susceptibility of Governor’s School Students”

Team 2

Katherine Broekman, Laura Eckman, Fiona Furnari, Christin Hong, Calleigh Higgins, Adrian Kase, Ji-Sung Kim, Kyle Kuhns, Grace Kwak, Jessica Petrow-Cohen, Kaamya Varagur

Advisor: Dr. Patrick Dolan   Assistant: Francesco Laterza


Our social and biological functions are dictated by our brains. Within it, cognition definition, serves as a key area which regulates areas such as decision-making, language processing, memory, and judgment. In this investigation, NJGSS students were analyzed in their susceptibilities to cognitive illusions, which are systematic errors in mental processing. Cognitive illusions can be divided into the groups of sensory, attention, and perception; memory; judgment and decision-making; and self-perception. In the field of sensory, attention, and perception, we used the tasks of the tabletop illusion, the newsprint illusion, the priming for the ambiguous picture, the McGurk effect, and the change blindness video. The tasks in memory were the penny illusion, Moses illusion, and Deese, Roediger, and McDermott false memory. The judgment and decision-making tasks were the conjunction fallacy, the coin toss, the hospital birth questions, anchoring, subscription, and intuitive motion. The self-perception tasks included the Barnum effect and the Lake Wobegon Effect. For the tasks involving math, probability, and science, we hypothesized that the subjects would be less susceptible to the illusions than previous studies, while in the other tasks the subjects would be equally susceptible. We provided the tasks in the form of a personality test, in which questions were asked in a survey format and time was emphasized. Our hypotheses were proved true as the subjects generally were less susceptible to the illusions that were mathematic- and statistic-based, while the subjects did similarly to the public on the other tasks. We conclude that this was due to the advanced mathematics and scientific knowledge of the NJGSS subjects.



Project in Microbiology: “The Antimicrobial Effects of Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Lemon (Citrus limon) Juice on Streptococcus mutans

Team 3


Chris Choi, Sameer Dhavalikar, Tyler Dorrity, Bryan Gerber, John Jensen, Claire Kim, Stephen Liang, Cynthia Lo, Gokul Mukunda, Piyush Puri, Anna Radakrishnan, Allan Wang

Advisor: Mrs. Rachel Sandler  Assistant: Joseph Lee


Streptococcus mutans is a common bacteria found in the mouth. In order to quantify their antimicrobial properties, rosemary, thyme and three variations of ginger were tested on lawns of Streptococcus mutans. Using paper disk diffusion and a minimum inhibitory concentration assay, several concentrations of all spice extracts were examined. Additionally, five mouthwash brands were tested for bacterial inhibition of Streptococcus mutans. Listerine® and Toms® failed to kill any of the bacteria while Scope®, Oasis®, and Crest® demonstrated inhibition. To test a hypothesized synergistic effect between lemon juice and the spice extract, samples were prepared with both lemon and the spices and compared to the samples with only spice extracts. The results were inconclusive, and only lemon juice demonstrated bacterial inhibition. Human error and unsterile conditions led to inconclusive results.



Project in Psychology and Neuroscience: “Neuronal Processing of the Corticomedial Amygdala through Odor Representation and Odor-Guided Fear Conditioning”

Team 4

Ravi Agrawal, Morven Chin, Shannon Compton, Erica Jalal, Peter Jin, Hyejin Kim, Sreeja Kodali, Sankeerth Kondapalli, Alicia Lai, Christopher Li, John Lu, Ankush Rakhit

Advisor: Dr. Graham Cousens  Assistant: Heather Tynan


The amygdala, a portion of the brain primarily involved in emotional and sensory processing, has been shown to be involved in the olfactory system, the sensory system responsible for smell. A two-pronged experiment was used in order to improve the general understanding of the amygdaloid complex and its relevant neural circuitry. The first experiment aimed to determine how neurons in the corticomedial amygdala represent perceptual properties of odorants. The corticomedial amygdala and piriform cortex receive direct olfactory input from the main olfactory bulb. Therefore, it was hypothesized that the corticomedial amygdala would exhibit similar neural configuration to that of the piriform cortex. As a result, it was expected that some odor-responsive and some odor-selective neurons would be seen, but with a lack of spatial topography or organization. At the end of the first experiment, it was concluded that there was a sparse odor response, similar to that of the piriform cortex. The goal of the second experiment was to determine how prior conditioning may alter the representation of odorants in the corticomedial amygdala.  It was hypothesized that there would be a greater proportion of neurons in the corticomedial amygdala responding to the odorant that the rat was previously conditioned to. A heightened response and greater odor selectivity were also expected.  At the conclusion of the second experiment, there was a greater proportion of neurons that responded in comparison to the neurons of the control.

Project in Chemistry: “Relative Influences of Polarity and Crystallinity on Zero-Order Kinetic Release Through a Polymer Membrane”

Team 5

Adam Dormier, Abhishek Gami, Kelly Gao, Christopher Jagoe, Robert Ju, Daniel Li, Joshua Lopez, Jae Woong Noh, Madison Parry, Maurice Wong, Agustin Zavala

Advisor: Dr. David Cincotta  Assistant: Timothy Barnum


Controlled-release kinetics involves the diffusion of a substance through a membrane at a constant rate independent of the concentration and time. This experiment analyzes the effects of crystallinity and polarity of a polymer membrane on the rate of diffusion of nonpolar and polar molecules. Specifically, we used polyethylene-vinyl acetate with increasing concentrations of vinyl acetate to simultaneously lower crystallinity and raise polarity. Alkanes and alcohols alike (pentane, heptane, nonane, propanol, hexanol) diffused faster through films of higher vinyl acetate composition. The vinyl acetate reduces the crystallinity of the film, giving it more interstitial spaces for the molecules to pass through. Essentially, the widening of molecular holes in the membrane overrides the immiscibility of polar and nonpolar substances.



Project in Archaeology: “Reconstructing Technologies: Volcanic Materials and the Secrets of Ancient Ecuadorian Pottery Engineers”

Team 6

Dominic DiPuma, Anthony Hoang, Chamaka Kalutota, Maggie Shaw, Maria Shea, Praveen Srinivasan, Lydia Wang, Inga Wu

 Advisor: Dr. Maria Masucci  Assistant: Runi Patel


The composition of ancient ceramics provides clues to a civilization’s culture and technology. Archaeologists studying the ceramics of coastal Ecuador have speculated that the Guangala culture utilized volcanic materials, such as ash and pumice, to create thin walled fineware pottery. The use of these materials would have significant implications regarding trade and knowledge of ceramic engineering. In order to investigate these claims, the techniques of optical petrography and scanning electron microscopy were employed to analyze the composition of archaeological samples from the El Azúcar River Valley in Ecuador, an important region of Guangala settlement. Pumice was identified in the ceramics with optical petrography and its presence confirmed with scanning electron microscopy. The nature of these inclusions indicates that trade was the source of these materials.


Project in Cognitive Science: “The Effects of Visual Distractions, Social Networking, and Skim Reading on Oculomotor Behavior During Reading”

Team 7

Allison Berger, Celena Chen, Samuel DeFabrizio, Trevor Edwards, Jillian Hubbard, Jinmin Kim, Katherine Lin, Asavari Phanse, Malya Sahu, Joseph Tharayil, Jenny Zhang, Charlotte Zuber

Advisor: Dr. Minjoon Kouh  Assistant: Zachary Vogel


This study sought to identify the saccadic patterns employed by the eyes in response to visual distractions, interactions with social networking websites, and skimming during reading. By examining the altered patterns of fixations and saccades under certain circumstances, this research can provide insight into the tactics utilized by the brain to process information. The visual distractions experiment determined that fixation durations were shorter during the post-distraction searching period and isolated several refocusing patterns: the linear search pattern and the zero-in search pattern. Exposure to social networking websites demonstrated no long term effects in saccade durations, saccade numbers, fixation durations, or fixation numbers, but revealed a significant difference in eye movement behavior during the short transition period after viewing a social networking website. The study also found that skim reading could maximize time efficiency with minimal loss of comprehension.



Project in Ecology: “Effects of Increased Levels of Carbon Dioxide and Rainfall as a Result of Climate Change on Lolium Multiflorum Growth”

Team 8

Lauren Brill, Kristen Miller, Daniel Qian, Haley Uustal, Michelle Zhou, Eric Zhu

Advisor: Dr. Arun Srivastava  Assistant: Kia Bourdot


Due to global climate change, carbon dioxide levels and rainfall are projected to increase to record levels. These changes will likely have a strong effect on plant growth; it is hypothesized that plants will thrive in these heightened conditions. Gulf Annual Ryegrass was used as a model to test how plants would respond to the predicted elevation of carbon dioxide and precipitation levels. It was hypothesized that as carbon dioxide concentration and hydration increase, plant growth and final mass will also increase. It was found that moderately high concentrations of carbon dioxide and lower watering were most favorable for ryegrass growth. Surprisingly, the group exposed to the highest carbon dioxide concentration exhibited the lowest growth.  Thus, the results of the experiment contrasted with predictions and prior research.