Student Profile: George Hasnah ’23 Places First at Los Angeles County Science Fair

For fun, most high school students play video games, watch movies, hang out with friends, or go to the beach. Bishop Montgomery’s George Hasnah ’23 is not your average student. After two years as a student researcher at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Hasnah was invited to participate in an original research project under the guidance of a CMA curator. He thought it would be great to do a “science project just for fun.”

For inspiration, Hasnah looked to California and the environmental challenges that currently plague the state. One, in particular, intrigued him– the threat of microplastics on marine life. Though a microplastic is defined as any particle that is less than 5 millimeters in diameter, Hasnah “wanted to work with the really small [microplastics]” so [he] went with the 300-355 millimeters.” He developed a proposal under the guidance of his CMA mentor Andres Carrillo.

Hypothesizing that a wax filter would remove microplastics from the ocean better than a resin (non-wax) filter, Hasnah sketched filters with various material composition and pore sizes and, using Fusion 360 design software, printed his designs. After running his experiment, he concluded that “pore size has a statistically significant effect on the percentage of microplastics removed, while material composition, such as wax or resin filter composites, do not differ significantly in microplastic removal.”

With his project complete, Hasnah began the application for the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair. BMHS AP Biology teacher Jennifer Choi helped him navigate the process— answering questions, providing advice and serving as a sounding board. After four months of designing, tweaking and re-tweaking his project, preparing a research paper, a video presentation as well as a Google slide, the project was ready for submission. One of 13 projects from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and one of over 700 entries to the 2021 science fair, Hasnah’s “Removal of Microplastics From Watery Environments With 3D Printed Filters” took first place overall. “To be honest, I was really surprised that I won,” says Hasnah.

And, if that honor in March was not enough, Hasnah was only one of seven students in the Los Angeles County science fair whose project qualified for the Intel/Regeneron Science Talent Search. The international event considers 7,000,000 research project submissions from students in over 70 countries, and ultimately chooses about 1,800 for the competition. The chance of Hasnah’s selection for the May 2021 talent search selection proved infinitely smaller than the millimeters of the plastics he was trying to capture– .0002%.

Though this competition is Hasnah’s first, “I have never been in a science fair before,” he is positioned for success in the subject.  “Science has always been my main thing,” says the rising junior. In February 2021’s United States Biology Olympiad, he ranked at the top. Again, Hasnah jumped in because he thought it would be fun. “I was searching for different biology competitions online and I decided to just apply and see what happens.”

As for future projects, olympiads, and even college goals, Hasnah continues to explore opportunities that cross his path. And if family history has anything to do with his decisions — his brother Henry graduated from BMHS this Spring and is headed to West Point – his aspirations will be high. Looking ahead to post-secondary learning, he imagines some sort of science major, perhaps in biology or biochemistry, probably with a minor in business. Hasnah says he does not have an exact plan right now, but since he is no stranger to research we’re pretty sure that by graduation, he will have it all figured out.