Maryland High School Student's Research Shines at NASA Meeting
July 29, 2022
Gregory Schmidt, director of NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, and Dominic Alfinito, a rising freshman at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute.
Dominic Alfinito, a 2022 high school graduate of North County High School in Glen Burnie, Maryland, won first place in the student poster competition at the NASA Exploration Science Forum (ESF) held at the University of Colorado at Boulder, on July 19–21, 2022.
Dominic presented his asteroid research paper "Possible Causes of Hydration of Vesta's Oppia Crater", which was the highest scoring research project of the 2021–2022 Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students (ExMASS) program.
"Dominic gained invaluable experience from explaining his research to other interested scientists as well as from learning about other current research going on in the space exploration field right now," said Michelle Hymowitz, teacher at North County High School. "Networking is so important in almost any scientific field."
ExMASS is a high school research program managed by the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), which is designed to envelop participants in the process of science, foster positive attitudes toward science, and enhance lunar and asteroid science knowledge. CLSE, a member of the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), is led by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and NASA Johnson Space Center.
"For a decade, the ExMASS program has provided an authentic, student-driven research experience for high school students," said Andy Shaner, ExMASS program lead and Senior Education Specialist at the LPI. "The student research presented at this year's NASA ESF demonstrates the high-quality scientific work high school students are capable of producing when given the opportunity."
In addition to presenting his research at the ESF, Dominic competed with other high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in the ESF's student poster competition. Dominic placed first out of 15 entries. Dominic's research advisor was Dr. Parvathy Prem of the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University. Research presented by two other 2021–2022 ExMASS teams received honorable mentions.
Dominic and his teacher Michelle Hymowitz attended the three-day ESF in person, watched presentations, and networked with other students and professional researchers. In the fall of 2022, Dominic will begin his freshman year as a physics major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
As the first-place winner, Dominic receives a $1500 travel grant from SSERVI to attend a future scientific meeting of his choice.