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Science Elective Challenges Larchmont Junior

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Gray Putnam encouraged freshman at an orientation session to join the Original Science Research program (OSR), a three-year science elective at Mamaroneck High School that has given him the outlet he needed.

Putnam, a junior, had no problem finding a research topic as the great nephew of a NASA employee. The challenge, he said, was making it hard enough.

"I usually don't get challenged in school, but it's pushed me beyond what I've done so far," Putnam said of OSR. "You can make it as hard as you want."

The Larchmont resident is studying the variability of a star – or why its brightness has changed over time – in the OMC-2 cluster called IRS 1.

"They basically identify areas of science they're interested in working in," said Guido Garbarino, head of the OSR program at Mamaroneck High School. "They study it, they learn as much as they can about it, and then they conduct a project under the guidance of a professional scientist mentor who helps them to develop and carry out their work."

Putnam's mentor is his great uncle Michael Werner, who is a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

"We looked at this star, and then I started to model its variability with him giving guidance, mostly by e-mail considering the distance between us," Putnam said. "There's actually quite a lot of mathematics involved, but I've been able to learn what I needed to."

Putnam was one of seven current OSR members who spoke in front of a standing-room only audience of freshman and their parents in the tiered classroom Thursday. Like Putnam, everyone introduced themselves, their project and why they joined OSR.

"I joined OSR after learning more about it when I went to the freshmen orientation program two years ago," said Putnam, now on the other end of the equation. "Seeing the variety of projects of the people who presented, I realized that I could really do anything I wanted to with the program."

Freshman interested in the program, like Brian Wilens, of Larchmont, will have to take Garbarino's preliminary course, which meets twice a week one hour before school.

"They kind of learn what research is about and they decide if they want to do the regular OSR class," Garbarino said.

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