Maryland High School Student Earns Top Spot in Solar System Research Competition

May 12, 2022

Dominic Alfinito with his presentation

A student from North County High School, Maryland earned top honors in the Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students (ExMASS) national research program managed by the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE) a joint effort between the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

A panel of planetary scientists selected the winning research study by North County student, Dominic Alfinito from five finalist studies. The winning project, titled “Possible Causes of Hydration of Vesta’s Oppia Crater,” identified two possible explanations for the detection of water near Vesta’s Oppia crater.

“Participating in the ExMASS program is challenging during any school year, never mind during a pandemic,” says Andy Shaner, ExMASS program manager for the CLSE. “Despite the added challenges, and doing so alone, Dominic produced the high-quality student research the program has come to expect.”

Over the course of the academic year, teams of high school students from across the country conducted their own research project with guidance from a scientist advisor. Dominic will present his research at the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute’s (SSERVI) annual Exploration Science Forum (ESF) held on the campus of the University of Colorado – Boulder, July 19–21, 2022, in Boulder, Colorado. Dominic’s advisor was Dr. Parvathy Prem of the Applied Physics Lab at The Johns Hopkins University.

The ExMASS program provides students an opportunity to conduct authentic, data-rich, scientific research of the Moon and asteroids, which covers the breadth of NASA SSERVI science and exploration goals.

Over 500 students from 30 states have participated in the ExMASS program since 2010, producing 38 student poster presentations that have been displayed at the NASA Lunar Science Forum (2010–2013) and SSERVI ESF (2014–). Of the 38 poster presentations, 7 received awards or honorable mentions in the Student Poster Competition held each year.

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