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Four Syosset High School Students Named 2019 Regeneron Science Talent Scholars

Congratulations to Syosset High School seniors Thomas Lam, Serena Lee, Spencer Pugach and Michael Wang, who were named 2019 Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS) Scholars. The Regeneron STS is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious pre-college science competition. These students were selected from 1,964 entries nationwide and they each will receive a $2,000 award with an additional $2,000 going to the high school to support STEM education. They are among 300 Regeneron STS scholars recognized nationwide and hope to be among 40 finalists named later this month. “I am very proud of Thomas, Serena, Spencer and Michael, who have worked tirelessly on their research projects,” said Syosset High School research facilitator Veronica Ade. “Their hard work and dedication have paid off and I look forward for what is in store for their futures.”

Thomas Lam completed his research work at Syosset High School. He created a game named The Number Rotation Puzzle, which is played on a square or rectangular grid of scrambled numbers. The goal of the game is to restore the numbers back into order by rotating square blocks of numbers of a set size. For all possible sizes of the board and all possible sizes of the rotating square blocks, players determine for what initial positions of the numbers the puzzle is solvable. Three-cycle algorithms, which are essential to solving these types of combination games, were found using a computer program in order to solve this focused problem. Then, the results were extended and special cases in which the general solving algorithm failed were handled.

Serena Lee completed her project, The Effect of Hydroxychloroquine on Oral Regeneration in Nematostella vectensis, at Stony Brook University, Thomsen Laboratory. N. vectensis is a species of sea anemone that serves as a developmental biology model organism, meaning it is used to better understand development in more complex animals. When the physa, or back end, of the animal is amputated, the development of regeneration can be observed in stages using the Nematostella Regeneration Staging System (NRSS). This system is based on when developmental structures regenerate and is a model for normal regeneration of the back end of the sea anemone. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), similar to chloroquine and the only clinically approved autophagy inhibitor, was administered to N. vectensis at different concentrations compared to animals in normal living conditions to determine the highest effective concentration and its effect on physal regeneration. The effect of the inhibitor became greater as the developmental structures regenerated at a slower rate in the animals exposed to higher concentrations of HCQ. There were also more abnormalities in the higher concentration experimental groups, such as underdeveloped anatomical structures. These results suggest that the autophagy pathway does impact regeneration and that it is needed for normal regeneration in N. vectensis.

Spencer Pugach’s research project, Twitter and the U.S. Senate: Investigating the Relationship Between the Tweets of Senators and Their Internet Popularity, was completed at Syosset High School. Considering the developments in the 2016 election and the demonstrable shift in the method of political communication from television to social media, Spencer focused his research on studying the effects of Twitter use on the internet popularity of U.S. Senators. A total of 16 U.S. Senators were selected, eight from each political party. Of the eight Senators from each party, four represented a rural constituency and four represented an urban constituency, creating a dichotomy with a total of eight senators with a rural background and eight senators with an urban background. The factor of population density was crucial, as the question of whether certain constituencies were more technologically-oriented was apparent. There was a positive relationship between the number of Tweets and growth in internet popularity. Internet popularity was quantified in terms of mentions, which are suggested to be inherently positive as per the Pollyanna hypothesis. The results also provided the basis for a linear regression model. Overall, the project helped address one of society’s most burgeoning questions: what role will Twitter continue to play in politics?

Michael Wang worked at SUNY Old Westbury, Zhu Laboratory to complete his project, Investigating the Neuroprotective Effects of Taurine and Synthetic Taurine Derivatives for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) damages neurons in the brain and is primarily characterized by loss of memory. It affects more than 35 million people worldwide and is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S, however scientists have not developed a cure that addresses the causes of the disease: amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are buildups of abnormal chemicals in the brain that kill neurons. A chemical named taurine and two modifications of the taurine compound were tested in this study by treating neurons with AD symptoms with the chemicals and comparing the survival rates of those cells to the survival rates of neurons with AD symptoms untreated with the chemicals. It was found that there was a significant increase in cell survival in the neurons treated with the taurine compounds. Thus, it was concluded that the taurine compounds exhibit protective effects on neurons with AD. Furthermore, the study suggested that the mechanism by which these taurine compounds combat AD involves clearing neurons of amyloid-beta plaques, reducing inflammation, and improving the efficiency of neurons’ energy production processes. The study is relevant because it identifies these taurine compounds as potential candidates in future AD drug development.

The 40 finalists in the competition, to be named later this month, will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they will display their research for the public, meet with members of Congress, and compete for more than $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron.


Photo Caption: Pictured from left, Principal Dr. Giovanni Durante, research teacher Mr. Andrew Manzo, Regeneron STS Scholars Serena Lee, Michael Wang, Thomas Lam, Spencer Pugach, research facilitator Ms. Veronica Ade, research teachers Ms. Diane Malley and Ms. Erin O’Rouke, and Superintendent Dr. Thomas Rogers.

Photo courtesy of the Syosset School District

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