3 LI teens reach Siemens science finals

From left, William Gil, Jeremy Appelbaum and Allen

From left, William Gil, Jeremy Appelbaum and Allen Shin from Hewlett High School won regional finalist honors in the national Siemens science contest. (Oct. 19, 2012) (Credit: handout)

Three George W. Hewlett High School seniors whose research may help scientists better understand a tumor-suppressing protein have advanced to the national finals of the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

Jeremy Appelbaum, 17, of Woodmere, William Gil, 17, of Valley Stream, and Allen Shin, 17, also of Valley Stream, won the team category last night at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the site of one of the six regional contests held this month across the country.

"I never dreamed of this happening," Shin said after learning his team was still in the running for a top prize of $100,000. "I'm in shock. It's a great feeling and probably a moment I'll never forget."

In their project -- "COP-1 Arrests Photomorphogenesis in Dark Grown Gametophytes of Ceratopteris richardii; A Study of COP-1 in Cryptogams" -- the team established a new research model.

The teens' work could help researchers better understand the multifunctional protein, according to the panel of judges -- all Carnegie Mellon professors.

"An especially impressive aspect of this project is that it was conceived, designed and carried out entirely with the resources available in the team's high school laboratory," said one of the judges, Javier Lopez, associate professor of biological sciences. "Down the road, the team's research may shed light on tumor-suppressing proteins."

There were 93 regional finalists nationwide, eight of them from Long Island.

Jiayi Peng, a senior at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, was the regional winner in the individual category.

The national finals will be held Dec. 1 to Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C., at George Washington University. There are two top awards, each bringing $100,000 in scholarships, for the winning team project and the winning individual project. Team members split their winnings.

Appelbaum, Gil and Shin will share a $6,000 scholarship for research, which they hope will lead to breakthroughs down the road.

"I feel like all our hard work for the past three years has paid off," said Appelbaum, who wants to be a doctor.

Appelbaum works on his school's newspaper, plays on the volleyball team and tutors students.

Shin, an aspiring doctor, does volunteer work in impoverished areas and also plays volleyball.

Gil, who volunteers at the American Cancer Society and competes on the fencing team, wants to be a biomedical researcher.

He said the team never expected to make it to the national finals, because their competitors had the advantage of using advanced university facilities -- rather than the high school lab.

"It's pure bliss," he said. "There's no other word for it."

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