Byram Hills' Eight Intel Semifinalists Is The Most In Westchester

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Byram Hills has eight semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, more than any district in Westchester. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Byram Hills School District

ARMONK, N.Y. -- Some of the most innovative and groundbreaking research is happening right at Byram Hills High School in Armonk.

The school has eight semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, the most of any school district in Westchester.

Samuel Cawkwell, Jonathan Giardina, Andrei Isichenko, Jessica Occhiogrosso, Matthew Percello, Amanda Tantleff, Helena Zhang and Brian Zimmerman are all enrolled in the high school’s highly regarded Dr. Robert Pavlica Authentic Science Research Program.

Students learn a wealth of research and presentation skills in the program while conducting independent research under their teachers’ guidance.

“I never expected that my research would be recognized at this level,” said Giardina. “It’s a really great feeling.”

Giardina studied how bacterial toxins can promote a form of cell death.

Tantleff said she was surprised by the honor but she and other classmates had put hours of hard work into their projects, including doing research over the summer with professional mentors. Tantleff studied why allergic children don’t always use their EpiPens and other devices during an anaphylactic reaction – a subject that attracted her because she has allergies of her own.

Science teacher David Keith, the program’s director, said providing students with an opportunity to pursue original research draws students into the program – and keeps them engaged.

“They are able to say for a brief moment that I know something that no one else in the world knows right now,” said Keith. “To me, that’s elegant, and that moment is what science is all about.”  

Byram Hills has had more than 90 semifinalists since 1991. The Byram Hills students are among 300 semifinalists nationally who were chosen from nearly 1,800 entrants from 489 high schools. The district had the second-highest number of semifinalists in the state. Later this month, 40 students will be named finalists and will travel to Washington DC to compete for the top awards.

Each semifinalist in the competition, often considered the top science contest in the country for high school students, receives a $1,000 award. The high school will also receive $1,000 for each of the semifinalists chosen.

There are 121 Byram Hills students in the school’s research program.

The Byram Hills School District includes Armonk as well as parts of Bedford, Pleasantville, and Chappaqua.

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