Social Science research finds success with MIT Inspire: Juniors Sarah Finkelstein and Mari Mirasol advance as finalists


Emily Ma

Juniors Sarah Finkelstein and Mari Mirasol became finalists in the MIT INSPIRE competition. They will present their projects at MIT from April 10 to April 12.

Brittany Polevikov, Staff Writer

MIT INSPIRE is one of the only national high school research competitions in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.  As the name suggests, the competition is hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it involves a variety of categories such as anthropology, cultural studies, science, technology, and society.

Juniors Sarah Finkelstein and Mari Mirasol of Schreiber’s social science research class recently found out that they are finalists in the competition, meaning that their projects were two of the top one hundred in the country chosen for the competition’s final round.  This final round is a two-day event on the MIT campus where students will be able to share their research, receive feedback from experts, and qualify for awards.

Deciding to work on a project to submit to MIT INSPIRE was somewhat of a new experience for Mirasol and Finkelstein.

“Dr. O’Connor always asks us to find a project to try and usually we write essays, but this time a fellow research student found one that involved making your own experiment.  At first we were really intimidated because we had never done anything like it before,” said Mirasol.

This did not stop either junior from finding an interesting topic and creating a survey to gather data to test their hypotheses.  Finkelstein’s project is named “Not So Dumb Jock: The Effects of High School Athletic Participation on Student Productivity and Achievement.”  With her paper, Finkelstein aimed to prove that the reason that athletes often have higher GPAs than non-athletes is because they experience increased productivity levels while they are in season and because they gain values of determination, hard work, and commitment.

“My results were successful in proving my hypothesis.  Through a series of survey questions, I came to results which showed that athletes did in fact feel that they were more productive during their sports season,” said Finkelstein.

Mirasol’s project also focused on students, analyzing student risk perception of drugs.  Collecting research involved going to other junior research classes to have them take the survey, as well as meeting with the health department to get permission to have students in health class take the survey.  Her survey compared students’ attitudes towards cigarettes, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, asking students which drug they felt the most educated about and which drugs they felt posed a risk towards their relationships with friends and family, their academic achievement, and their health.

After analyzing the data through a computer program, Mirasol’s findings indicated that students were less likely to use a drug if they thought it was a risk to their health.  Furthermore, both the students who smoked marijuana and did not smoke marijuana were unsure of it being a risk to their health and academic success.

“I’m usually really nervous before doing something I’ve never done before, but I think going to MIT with our projects will be a great experience.  For Sarah and I to get to take something we worked so hard on and speak out for it to show others why it is important is amazing,” said Mirasol.

Though becoming a finalist in such a prestigious competition is admirable in itself, both Mirasol and Finkelstein’s studies also prove quite admirable in the stage they set for future research to be conducted.

“Hopefully my study has opened doors for people, possibly even myself in the future, to expand on my research,” said Finkelstein.  “I set aside further research questions that include testing the hypothesis on different samples and in different neighborhoods.  I also hope that people can use the fact that students on high school sports teams experience greater productivity to prove the same for other clubs and high commitment activities such as a job, theatre, and community service.”