top of page

Honors Research in Science

Dear Community,


The Leonetti/O'Connell Honors Research in Science Program provides an opportunity for students to spend a full year conducting original research in the lab sciences under the mentorship of an academic expert in their field of interest. Students gain practical life skills while also getting to participate in hands-on scientific work outside the classroom.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020-2021 school year, we have pivoted from our traditional Celebration of Innovation model, and instead created a live, digital Poster Presentation event! Below you will find a profile on each student as well as links to each student's Zoom Room, their posters, and (in some cases) pre-recorded presentations. 

I am so incredibly proud of these young scholars. The work they have created during this year of uncertainty is the epitome of innovation, and I can not wait to see what they do next. Thank you for the support of our amazing students and for celebrating them with me! Live presentations will take place on Thursday, April 29th from 5:00pm to 6:30pm. 


Allison Ponzio, PhD

Honors Research in Science Program Head

Please watch a Welcome video from Dr. Ponzio below. Join her Zoom here (Thursday, April 29th from 5:00pm to 6:30pm) for tech support, to ask questions, or to say hello!

Anjali photo - Anjali Mehta.jpg

Anjali '21


Music Activates the Brain for Numerous Therapeutic Applications

Join Anjali's Zoom here

Watch Anjali's prerecorded presentation here


View Anjali's poster here

This year I learned: As a lifelong musician and avid music listener, I am fascinated by music's ability to evoke emotions and bring people together. It was so interesting to learn about the specific neural mechanisms that allow this to be possible.

Next Steps: I will be attending Harvard University in the fall, where I plan on majoring in Anthropology with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy on the pre-med track. At Harvard, I hope to continue my research into music and the brain at Harvard's Music Lab.  

Screen Shot 2021-04-27 at 21.45.14 - Del

Delilah '21


Understanding Neurodegeneration Through Microgravity on the International Space Station

Join Delilah's Zoom here

View Delilah's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Davide Marotta & Dr. Valentina Fossati, New York Stem Cell Foundation

This year I learned: The most interesting thing was being able to pursue my love for space and biology at the same time. I met so many incredible people from both my lab and our collaborators (at the National Stem Cell Foundation, a biotech company called Space Tango, and more).

Next Steps: I will be attending Johns Hopkins with majors in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Earth and Planetary Science. I will continue as an intern at my lab over the summer and into next year and beyond, and hope to find a lab in Baltimore so I can get started in the fall.

Emma_008 - Emma Lohr.jpg

Emma '21

Tubular Sclerosis

The Comorbidity of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex  and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Join Emma's Zoom here

Watch Emma's prerecorded presentation here


View Emma's poster here

This year I learned: It was very interesting to learn about the complexities of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and the extremely high comorbidity of Tuberous Sclerosis and Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was also very interesting to learn about why this comorbidity is important in scientific research.

Next Steps: In the Fall I am going to University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Helena Econn Yearbook - Helena Econn.jpg

Helena '21


Neurological Disorders and Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Watch Helena's prerecorded presentation here


View Helena's poster here

This year I learned: The most interesting thing I learned while working on my project was how tricky getting the correct combination and doses of medication that can aid in treating the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Next Steps: I plan to continue my research at college and to pursue a career in behavioral therapy. 

IMG_1265 - Katherine Beaghan.heic

Katherine '21

Race & Media Studies

Is there a Correlation Between Media Usage and Racial Bias?

Watch Katherine's prerecorded presentation here

This year I learned: Collectively, we as Americans have the power to end racism. It's whether we will allow and aid change to happen in the form of stripping away historical ways and narratives in addition to implementing new, more diligent methods and systems. 

Next Steps: I plan to continue my research at University of Southern California, while simultaneously continuing to grow my knowledge of the human brain, how it works, and how it effects society by majoring in Psychology and Sociology.  

0 - Laine Katz-Vanzo.jpeg

Laine '21

Pediatric Clinical Psychology

The Early Onset of Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder in Children

Join Laine's Zoom here

Watch Laine's prerecorded presentation here


View Laine's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Eraka Bath & Georgia Perris, University of California Los Angeles

This year I learned: While completing research during COVID, I've learned how to utilize database resources to work in an independent and productive way. 

Next Steps: I plan to continue completing research in Neuroscience and Psychology next year at college. 

IMG_9848 - Mikaela Magtoto.jpeg

Mikaela '21

Pediatric Cancer

The Psychosocial Impact of Ewing Sarcoma on Patient-Survivors

Join Mikaela's Zoom here


View Mikaela's poster here

This year I learned: One of the most interesting aspects of my research was the opportunity to study and understand one disease very holistically using both microscopic and macroscopic lenses. The flexibility of my project allowed me to discover two topics which I am eager to continue investigating: pediatric malignancies arising from unpredictable chromosomal translocations and the prevalence of "scanxiety" amongst cancer patients and their families. Visualizing molecular pathways and following the battles of those fighting Ewing Sarcoma were incredibly challenging in different ways, but I have learned a lot about relatively new topics that will be crucial in advancing therapeutic treatments and the systems that psychosocially support patients and survivors throughout their journeys.

Next Steps: Next year, I'll be beginning my undergraduate career at University of California, Los Angeles, where I plan to pursue further research in the biomedical sciences. My exploration of Ewing Sarcoma during this program has made me excited to seek out laboratories that are investigating pediatric oncology. 

Roxy Portrait - Roxy Revel.png

Roxy '21

Cancer & Food Science

The Role of Synonymous Variants and Regulatory Region Alterations in Medulloblastoma Cancer Predisposition Genes

Join Roxy's Zoom here

Note: Roxy will be covering her second project on education and food science in her Zoom presentation. 

Watch Roxy's prerecorded presentation here


View Roxy's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Jianling (Jenny) Ji, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

This year I learned: Learning how to use the Alamut Visual Software was incredibly interesting, as I could annotate, filter, and explore different genomic variants that I had previously collected from HGMD (Human Gene Mutation Database).

Sidney_02 (2) - Sidney Bae.jpg

Sidney '21


CUDA GPU Implementation of the Robust Cauchy Estimator Term Reduction Sub-Algorithm

Join Sidney's Zoom here

Watch Sidney's prerecorded presentation here


View Sidney's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Jason Speyer & Nathaniel Snyder, University of California Los Angeles

This year I learned: The most interesting thing I learned working on my project was learning how to use CUDA C to code in parallel on the GPU.

Next Steps: I definitely want to continue research in college and maybe beyond college too. I am not exactly sure what field, but something related to my project this year in a more robotics type implementation sounds amazing.

IMG_0112 - Stella Fox.JPG.jpg

Stella '22

Environmental Science

How the Implementation of Green Planning Techniques can Reduce the Heat Island Effect

Join Stella's Zoom here

Watch Stella's prerecorded presentation here


View Stella's poster here

This year I learned: One of the most interesting and important things I learned throughout this research project is how to actually research. As someone who has never conducted scientific research, the process of researching were fascinating and completely new to me.

Next Steps: Next year I plan on continuing my research of topics specifically related to environmental science.

Chloe_02Dig - Chloe Hutchens.jpg

Chloe '21


Quantification of Synaptic Proteins in the Outer Plexiform Layer of the Retina

Join Chloe's Zoom here

Watch Chloe's prerecorded presentation here


View Chloe's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Aaron Nagiel & Dr. Sumitha P. Bharathan, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

This year I learned: Not only did I come to understand the intricate workings of the outer plexiform layer of the retina, I was able to experience working in a lab and communicating with professionals in my field. 

Next Steps: I am planning to continue research in college, hopefully in the stem cell field as well!

Screen Shot 2021-04-25 at 9.42.29 PM - E

Eliza '21

Cancer & Environmental Science

Los Angeles County Drinking Fountain Water Quality Analysis 

Join Eliza's Zoom here


View Eliza's poster here

This year I learned: There are so many potentially harmful contaminants present in water. lean drinking water is incredibly scarce around the world. 

Next Steps: I will be attending the University of Chicago and plan on majoring in Biology. I also hope to do help with research on campus. 

Martinetti, Francoise - Francoise Martin

Francoise '21

Genetically Modified Organisms

How Different Government Types Impact Europeans’ Perceptions of GMOs: Finnish and Spanish Opinions on GMOs 

Join Francoise's Zoom here


View Francoise's poster here

This year I learned: Learning about the psychology behind the uncertainty around GMOs was very interesting especially because it pertained to the way GMOs are marketed in different countries. 

Next Steps: I hope to engage in research at the University of Michigan.


Jacque '21

Dance & Neuroscience

A Look Into the Dancer's Brain

Join Jacque's Zoom here

Watch Jacque's original "A Look Into the Dancer's Brain" video series:


Video One here.

Video Two here


View Jacque's poster here

This year I learned: Researching a niche subject that directly combined my two biggest passions. I was able to begin, what I hope, is a lifetime of dance research and create a unique display of my work.

Next Steps: I'm attending Skidmore College to double major in neuroscience and dance. 

40794D32-BA97-4BCF-9E58-05ED10F47A58 - K

Kaya '21


The Role of Sprouty2 in Regulating Bactericidal Protein Production in the Colon

Join Kaya's Zoom here

Watch Kaya's prerecorded presentation here


View Kaya's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Mark Frey & Dr. Michael Schumacher, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

This year I learned: Before doing this Honors Research project, I knew little to nothing about IBD, and now I not only know what IBD is and how it presents in patients, but I have also just started to scratch the surface of therapies and treatments for IBD using targeted gene therapy. 

Next Steps: I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania as a Vagelos Scholar in Molecular Life Sciences, so I will hopefully be able to continue doing some sort of research if not research in a related topic. 

IMG_3539 - Maisie Thompson.JPG.jpg

Maisie '21

Environmental Science

An Analysis of the Plant-Growth Promoting Effects of Bacillus, Micromonospora, and Dietzia cinnamea

Join Maisie's Zoom here

Watch Maisie's prerecorded presentation here


View Maisie's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Ann Hirsch & Dr. Noor Khan, University of California Los Angeles

This year I learned: Discovering the true impact of soil and how essential the health of the soil is for shaping societies was the most interesting part of my research.

Next Steps: I'm planning to continue my research on plant-growth promoting bacteria into college.

Paige_28 - Paige Gubernick.jpeg

Paige '21

Environmental Science

Comparisons of Air Quality Around Los Angeles, California

Join Paige's Zoom here

Watch Paige's prerecorded presentation here


View Paige's poster here

Mentor: Dr. William M. Berelson & Nick E. Rollins, University of Southern California

This year I learned: Research this year has been an invaluable part of my learning experience. I found that while working on my project, I was exposed to the many complications that come hand-in-hand with research. Although there are many setbacks, it is ultimately so gratifying to find the root of a problem and adjust to change. I cannot wait to share our findings with others through this incredible opportunity!

Next Steps: I plan on majoring in Environmental Science through the Tri-Co at Bryn Mawr College and to pursue research endeavors there!

IMG_5039 - Sarah Kong.JPG.jpg

Sarah '21

Alzheimer's Disease

Effects of DHA on Hippocampal Volume of APOE4 Carriers

Join Sarah's Zoom here

Watch Sarah's prerecorded presentation here


View Sarah's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Meredith Braskie and Michael Hendrickson, University of Southern California

This year I learned: Alzheimer's disease has a physical impact on memory. It causes a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory.

Next Steps: I plan on majoring in biological sciences and continuing lab research at Cornell.

Simón-Trench, Sofia - Sofia SimonTrench

Sofia '21


Analysis of Force Data Collected on Post-ACL Injured Patients and Control Adolescents Using the Lower Extremity Spring Dexterity Test

Join Sofia's Zoom here

Watch Sofia's prerecorded presentation here


View Sofia's poster here

Mentor: Dr. Tishya Wren & Adriana Conrad-Forrest, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

This year I learned: The most interesting thing that I learned this year while working on my HRS project was how to make a presentation that is both compelling to all viewers while also being informative and engaging for the experts in your field.

Next Steps: Next year I will be going to Stanford to study engineering with a pre-med focus and I hope to join a bioengineering or biotech lab there so I can continue doing research!

Research Projects

bottom of page