Seven Great Neck high school students were named scholars in the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS), one of the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competitions. Patrick Gao was named from John L. Miller Great Neck North High School, and Lynn Hlaing, Matthew Ko, Olivia Ann Lundelius, Rubin Asher Smith, Yujia Su and Jaysen Zhang were named from William A. Shine Great Neck South High School.
Formerly the Westinghouse and then the Intel Science Talent Search, the competition began in 1942 and is the nation’s oldest, and often considered the most prestigious, pre-college science competition, where students compete for more than $3.1 million in awards annually. Administered by the Society for Science & the Public, Regeneron STS scholars will each receive $2,000, with a matching amount for their school.
Patrick Gao’s project is Development of an Automated Feedback Loop for the Geometric Stabilization of Taylor Cones in Low Flow-Rate Magnetoelectrosprays. Electrosprays are formed when a liquid in a capillary is subjected to an electric field, during which the liquid at the tip of the capillary extends to a point. The pointed tip, named the Taylor cone, will begin to eject a stream of liquid that disperses into an aerosol—commonly controlled through voltage, current and flow rate—and is used as propellant to control satellites. To control for the cone shape directly, this study attempted to create a program that detected the angle formed at the vertex of the cone through live video-processing techniques. An Arduino microprocessor interface was created to connect the program to the setup for maintaining desired cone angles. For magnetized electrosprays, experiments produced data demonstrating the success of the program and suggesting that magnetic fields increase the stability of magnetic electrosprays, allowing them to perform at lower flow rates and therefore higher propulsive efficiencies.
Lynn Hlaing’s project is Modulating LRRK2 Kinase Domain Through an FDA-Approved Compound. Parkinson’s disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disorder, affects more than 4.5 million people worldwide. Many inherited cases of PD are associated with mutation of an enzyme, LRRK2, which transfers phosphate groups from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to proteins. In this study, the interaction between an FDA-approved compound and LRRK2 was studied to examine the compound’s ability to inhibit LRRK2 enzyme activity. Experiments revealed inhibition of the isolated enzyme as well as inhibition when cells containing the enzyme were treated with the compound. In addition, the interaction between this compound and a protein fragment of LRRK2 was studied using NMR Spectroscopy, a technique related to MRI. The analysis suggested that this FDA-approved compound may prevent ATP from binding to the enzyme and could potentially become a treatment for LRRK2-associated PD.
Matthew Ko’s project is Extraction of the Specific Shear Viscosity of the Quark-Gluon Plasma from Measurements of Flow Harmonics in Au + Au Collisions at 200 GeV. One of the biggest goals in particle physics today is understanding more about how basic constituents of matter interact with each other at high temperatures and densities, conditions similar to that of our early universe. In this study, calculations were done on hot, dense nuclear matter created at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which accelerates and collides gold nuclei at near light speeds. As this hot, dense, nuclear matter of quarks and gluons (elementary particles of matter) cools down to protons and neutrons, various properties can be identified and quantified. One of these properties is shear viscosity, a property that is directly linked to the nature of the interactions within the nuclear matter.
Olivia Lundelius’ project is Sorting Microfossil Concentrate Under Ultraviolet and Daylight Conditions Using a Support Vector Machine. Microfossils, which are important materials for paleontologists, are normally collected, mixed in with gravel. Lundelius created a program to distinguish microfossils from gravel using a computer program involving Support Vector Machine (SVM) classification algorithms. The program was able to determine the difference between images of the microfossils and gravel with 98 percent accuracy. This technique could be useful in making an automated sorter for isolation of microfossils.
Rubin Smith’s project is Modeling Topography and Mammal Species Diversity Within the Western U.S Basin and Range from 36Ma. The Basin and Range is a province in the Western U.S., located between the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado Plateau. A dynamic animation was done of changes in the crustal thickness and elevation of this region from 36 million years ago to the present. The relative velocities of GPS stations across the Basin and Range were measured and used to create topographical maps of elevation and crustal thickness in intervals of 0.5 million years. Average elevation over time was calculated in selected regions and compared with existing mammal diversity data. The results suggest a correlation between times of rapid change in elevation and differentiation within mammal species.
Yujia Su’s project is Groundwater Contaminant EDC: A Potential Hazard on Human Nervous System. 1,2–Dichloroethane (EDC) is a commonly found contaminant in Long Island public water systems. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of EDC on the human nervous system. Through measurement of cell viability, cell activity, and gene expression, Su discovered that EDC cuts down energy supplies for nerve cell activities and induces nerve cell death. Overall, this investigation suggested a possible mechanism for the neurotoxicity of groundwater on Long Island.
Jaysen Zhang’s project is A Cell Culture Model of Glutamine Addiction in Cancer Via the c-Myc–Sirt5–Glutaminase Axis. His study examined how the proteins c-Myc and Sirt5 affect cellular Glutaminase activity. Since many cancer cells are addicted to Glutamine, an understanding of pathways involved in Glutamine metabolism could lead to novel treatments. Last fall, Zhang received another outstanding science award for his research project when he was named a Semifinalist in the 2016 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
North High science research teachers/advisors are Takoa Lawson, Maya Lerner, Alan Schorn and Jessica Schust, department chair. Science research teachers/advisors at South High are Dr. Carol Hersh and Dr. James Truglio.
“Regeneron is honored to support the Science Talent Search, Society for Science & the Public and these outstanding Scholars,” said Hala Mirza, Regeneron vice president of Corporate Communications and Citizenship. “We believe the Regeneron Science Talent Search can play a critical role in encouraging talented young people to pursue their interest in STEM and become the leaders and innovators who will shape our future.”
On Jan. 24, 40 of the top 300 scholars will be named finalists and compete in Washington, DC, in March. The finalists will participate in a rigorous judging process, interact with leading scientists, display their research for the public at the National Geographic Society, meet with national leaders and compete for the top award of $250,000.
Science Talent Search alumni have gone on to receive more than 100 of the world’s most esteemed science and math honors, including Nobel Prizes, National Medals of Science, Fields Medals, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and Breakthrough Prizes.