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North Salem Teacher Inspires Passion for Science

Students at North Salem High who are in need of a little extra inspiration can just call upon teacher Dr. Tom DiGaetano.

“"Tom Di Gaetano inspired me by introducing me to new areas of research and by getting me articles to read in upcoming fields of science,” said Senior Ethan Bassin.

Bassin, the school’s valedictorian, is one of  several students who presented at Tuesday’s 11th Annual North Salem Science Symposium. His project was on the "factors affecting growth of lysozyme crystals for use in X-ray diffraction."

The symposium is the culmination of a three year science research elective course, which is facilitated by Gaetano.

Students who elect the course start in tenth grade by learning the basics of scientific research. In eleventh grade they begin to apply their skills to authentic pieces and by their senior year they pursue original research.

DiGaetano credits the late Dr. Robert Pavlica of Armonk for having developed the research course model. “Pavlica came up with the idea that anybody with a passion can develop a question and research it,” he said. “You don’t have to have the highest test score or be the best and brightest. You only need to have the passion and stick to it. There is research in all of us.”

For her study, senior Kristie Trageser looked at the responses of onlookers to an episode of bullying. Trageser conducted research, in part, by posting a questionnaire on The goal was to find a correlation between various types of personalities and how they react to a specific situation. DiGaetano said Trageser’s work is especially significant because it concentrates on bystanders rather than the bullying itself.

 DiGaetano, known as Dee to his friends and students, has been teaching for more than 25 years, seven of them at North Salem High. He doesn’t specify a course or subject when asked what he teaches, but rather says “I teach children.”


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