The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


Science Girls Take Top Honors

Naughton-Rockwell, Lowe, and Lytle at the Northern Virginia Regional Science Fair.

Humphrey, Lytle and Naughton-Rockwell Excel

Celeste Amron and Reagan Feld

Senior Ana Humphrey won $250,000 for placing first in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a prestigious competition with 2000 contestants. She was given this award for her research on exoplanets. Humphrey created a mathematical model to find the possible locations of planets outside of our solar system that may have been missed by the NASA Kepler Space Telescope.

“I’ve dreamed of being an Science Talent Search finalist since I was in sixth grade,” Humphrey said. “When I submitted my application in the fall, it was emotional because I realized I had accomplished a goal that I been working towards for a third of my life.”

Ana Humphrey wins the Regeneron Science Talent Search,

Humphrey has been involved in STEM for years. In seventh grade she founded Watershed Warriors, a class project turned student-led nonprofit organization that partners high school members with fifth-grade students “to promote awareness and enthusiasm for the environment and STEM through hands-on STEM lessons,” such as planting wetlands vegetation and picking up trash to help students from Jefferson-Houston, Cora Kelly, Lyles-Crouch, and Maury elementary schools practice and review SOL topics and skills.

She received one of Virginia’s Outstanding STEM awards in 2018 for her work with Watershed Warriors.

Humphrey will attend Harvard University next year, where she plans to study astrophysics with a  focus on exoplanets, but says she is “open to exploring new ideas” by branching out to other areas of astrophysics.

Humphrey’s classmate, Leslie Lytle, has been working on developing a biodegradable plastic since the fall of her junior year. “I started reading articles about plastic waste and I knew it was a huge problem, but some of the statistics I saw were astounding. There are beaches in Hawaii where 10 percent of the sand is actually microplastics,” Lytle said. “I thought that [the lack of biodegradable plastics in the market] was a really interesting problem to try to solve and also an area where I could have some sort of impact.”

She placed second in the state level at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) where she delivered an oral presentation about her research on plastics. The top five participants at the state level competition moved on to the National JSHS in New Mexico. Because Lytle was in the top two, she will have the opportunity to her present her development to the entire National Symposium at the end of April.

Leslie Lytle presents her research on biodegradable plastic.

Lytle will go to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. She is interested in majoring in either chemical engineering or mechanical engineering but is still unsure of which one she will choose.

Lytle’s interest in mechanical engineering stemmed from her participation in the Robotics team which she has been a member of all four years of high school. She is also drawn towards chemical engineering because creating a new plastic relates heavily on that. Whatever major she decides on, Lytle hopes to continue her research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Another outstanding senior is Tessa Naughton-Rockwell, who recently won second place in the Animal and Plants category of the state science fair. She also competed in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, where she was a semifinalist.

Naughton-Rockwell has conducted research on the correlation between internal beehive temperatures and the health of the bee population. She found that common insecticides lower the internal temperature of beehives, which causes the population to decline. “When bees are exposed to these pesticides, it decreases their thermoregulatory health,” said Naughton-Rockwell.

Tessa Naughton-Rockwell stands with her science fair board.

Naughton-Rockwell is also involved in Watershed Warriors and started the Bee Club at T.C., which advocates for the protection of bees and has its own hive. “I have been doing bees for pretty much all four years of high school… I saw a real need with bees,” she said.

She will attend Virginia Tech next year where she plans to continue studying environmental sciences.

Naughton-Rockwell credits part of her success to her Science Research class, taught by Shawn Lowe. “She is a really awesome teacher, who really pushes the trend of science research,” She said. “You get to chose the issue… it gave me a lot of space to do [my research].”

Humphrey, Lytle and Naughton-Rockwell take Science Research with Lowe, which Humphrey called “absolutely essential to [her] success”.

This class gave these students the ability to learn “skills include reading academic papers, keeping detailed research notebooks, writing technically, communicating with scientists, and presenting my research,” said Humphrey.

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Science Girls Take Top Honors