MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury students Paige Moffat, a senior at The Gunnery, and Cassie Reilly, a senior at Pomperaug High School, were awarded second place in the Senior Group Division at Connecticut History Day on May 4 at Central Connecticut State University.

The two students, who have been friends since elementary school, will now advance to the National History Day contest, which will be held June 9 to June 14 at the University of Maryland. The pair will present their original research into the history of clinical trials, the culmination of which was an exhibit titled Who Plays God? The Tragedy of Medical Drug Trials Using the Placebo Affect.

“Clinical trials have been the subject of ongoing debate for the last century,” Paige said. “The tragic outcomes of unregulated medical trials in World War II led to strong regulations by the FDA in the United States as well as the Nuremberg Code. During the 1970s, stronger acts were enforced to mandate patients’ rights throughout their participation in a clinical trial.”

“These regulations have led to triumphant new treatments that ultimately give hope to the critically ill while also abiding by the patient’s rights,” she continued.

Paige and Cassie selected their subject based on this year’s theme for Connecticut History Day, Triumph and Tragedy. They placed first at the regional contest in Torrington in April, which qualified them to present at the state level.

Students with the top two entries in every category at the state level are then invited to participate in the national contest, a week-long event that attracts 3,000 students from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and international schools in China, Korea and South Asia, according to National History Day organizers.

Paige has been participating in Connecticut History Day since she was a student at Memorial Middle School and this will be the third time she has represented Connecticut in the national competition.

“It is a lot of work, but I love learning about different historical events and connecting them to modern-day issues,” she said.

She has presented in both individual and group categories and researched topics including Native American boarding schools and the Amistad.

“For each exhibit, we construct a comprehensive, annotated bibliography of sources, primary and secondary, take trips to the state library and interview prominent doctors, patients, etc,” Paige said. “We also provide a 500-word essay on our process of constructing the exhibit.”

At the competition, they presented their project to judges, “who interview us and ask some tough questions. Overall, I love the experience, especially the creative part of constructing a five-foot-tall exhibit,” she said.

In 2018 Paige placed first in the Senior Individual Exhibit category at the Torrington regional Connecticut History Day event and won third place in the state competition for her research on Sarah Pierce’s Female Academy in Litchfield.

In addition Paige has twice presented at the annual Rooted Research Conference at The Gunnery, including this year as a 2019 Gunn Scholar, the highest academic honor a student can achieve prior to graduation.

She focused her yearlong, independent research project on the life of Abigail Gunn, the wife of school founder and abolitionist Frederick Gunn, and her influence on The Gunnery’s establishment and legacy.

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