Tenth Grade Science Student Wins Research Grant

A passion for environmental science led first-year Science Research student Leo Horton '24 to land a grant and “go for it.”

Horton, a tenth grade student, was awarded the McKeon Research Grant through the Hudson River Environmental Society. Under the mentorship of Dr. Dorothy Peteet at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, Horton received $800 to conduct his research project – “Recording the Effects of the Changing Environment in Annsville Marshes Over Four Centuries.”

“I was excited to win it,” Horton said. “It’s a great opportunity to get hands-on experience, something you can’t learn in a school setting.” 

For Horton, who lives in Garrison, New York, studying the neighboring Annsville marshes had great appeal. “The history of the land and how it evolved over time got me interested in learning more about it,” he shared.

Upper School Science Research teacher Kristina Gremski noted Horton originally wanted to work on solutions for climate change, but “pivoted to a project that investigates the historical record of human pollution in soil core samples.” She added that the conversations Horton had with his mentor allowed him to discover a new and interesting area of research.

The Science Research course at Masters is an elective that students can take for one or more years. In the first year, students work on narrowing their area of interest, finding a mentor and developing a research proposal. The research project can take place over the summer or the following school year. Students then write a paper and have the option to enter a science fair. 

“We have students pursuing independent, novel projects in behavioral science, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, physics and other areas,” said Gremski. “They’re gaining valuable experience in reading primary scientific literature, determining appropriate methodology and communicating with university scientists.”

Gremski is thrilled that Horton will have the opportunity to present his research findings at the Hudson River Environmental Society Symposium in May 2023. “When students present their work in a public setting, it gives them their first taste of being treated as a professional, instead of a student,” she said.

With a grant in hand, Horton is ready. “It gives me extra motivation knowing that this is something I can pursue. I’m starting early so it gives me a head start.”