Independent Science Research: A Passion and a Purpose

“Everyone is different, everyone chooses something where there is passion and a purpose.” science coach Jill Ott said regarding the importance of Holt’s science research program.


photo by Brenden Cox

On December 7, 2022 Holt welcomed Senator Travis Fitzwater to sit in on an independent science research presentation that explained what the program does, why it is important to students and how Holt’s students specifically plan to contribute to their fields, from engineering to biochemistry. 

Within the program itself, this years projects have works from Lila Sverdrup (‘23), Drew Bufalo (‘23), Braden Burnthart (‘23), Callie Logsdon (‘23), Raegan Stinson (‘23) and Mackenzie​​ Thomas (‘23). From these talented students comes a variety of projects with a conscious aim to make the world a safer, more educated place. Sverdrup, in her second year of her award winning project, is continuing her study on the effects of anthropogenic noise on bumblebee foraging and population decline. Bufalo, also in his second year, is continuing his study on the effects of DUX4 gene expression and its overexpression resulting in the disease Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy, or FSHD. Bufalos research looks specifically to finding a stable treatment for people who suffer from this disease.

Bufalo is able to utilize Washington University’s biology lab to conduct his research as well through the broad amount of connections the science research department has.  

Braden Burnthart (‘23) is designing a wrist that will be able to be detached and reattached so they are able to have a seamless transition between the hitting and the running process to aid in bringing prosthetic limbs into the sports world. Burnthart’s project demonstrates the engineering side of science research and the diversity of these projects. Within a similar vein, Callie Logsdon (‘23) is doing research on soccer cleats that implement a system with a customized heel.

Raegan Stinson (‘23) is researching the biological difference between CBD and THC to help clear up the differences between the two and Mackenzie Thomas (‘23) is looking into the creation of a knee brace with an extension on the knee brace that will hold the leg in an angle for a certain period of time to attempt to reduce scar tissue so scar tissue does not build up. 

“I’ve been through tons of physical therapy and have run into several problems that I know several other patients have had,” Thomas said.

Among the amazing minds the program hosts as well, every good program needs a good director. For Holt, AP Biology and Anatomy teacher Jennifer Hess has fulfilled that role for several years. Hess originally acted as a supervisor before science research had a specific class and her ability to guide her students through their projects and offer advice and support is a huge part of what makes this course not just capable of happening at all, but what makes it so special.

The independent science research team had their annual competition, Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) at Mizzou on March 3. Here, students got to present their projects to professors to give them the opportunity to take their research to the national level.