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Long IslandEducation

LI students win in European Union Contest

Half Hollow Hills High School West senior Poojan

Half Hollow Hills High School West senior Poojan Pandya and Ward Melville High School senior Leo Takemaru won one of four first-place prizes in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists. Credit: Amit Pandya

A two-student team from Long Island was among four first-prize winners in an international science contest for their research on HIV proteins.

Poojan Pandya, a senior at Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills, and Leo Takemaru, a senior a Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, were among the top winners last month at the 31st annual European Union Contest for Young Scientists. This year's contest consisted of 154 students, ages 14 to 20, from 40 countries and was held in Bulgaria.

Pandya and Takemaru's research explored the role of a specific protein in HIV budding and how that protein may be a viable target for potential antiviral therapeutics because it is not present in the majority of adult human organs.

They were awarded 7,000 euros, which equates to about $7,700.

"Winning the first prize feels amazing because it validates the countless hours we put into our project and science in general," Pandya said. 

To be eligible for the contest, Pandya and Takemaru won "best-of-category" in microbiology earlier this year at the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix.

Their research mentor was Feng-Qian Li, an associate professor of research in Stony Brook University's Pharmacology Department.

"I warmly congratulate the winners of this year's contest on their outstanding achievement," said Carlos Moedas, commissioner for research, science and innovation for the European Union. "I am convinced that we will see many of the 154 participants hitting the headlines in the coming years with breakthrough discoveries and innovations."


New principal

Ayesha McArthur is the new principal of Rhame Avenue Elementary School. McArthur, who replaced Erik Walter, previously was the interim superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Long Beach. Before that, she was an elementary principal in Maryland and North Carolina for 11 years and an assistant principal in Freeport.

"The pillars guiding the focus for East Rockaway, 'Achievement, Opportunity, Connection and Innovation,' are directly aligned with my philosophical views and beliefs as an educator, which will help to make my transition a smooth one," McArthur said.


New principal

Jami Anspach has been named principal of Lee Road Elementary. She served as the school's interim principal following Anthony Goss' retirement in December.

Anspach previously was an assistant principal at East Broadway, Gardiners Avenue and Northside elementary schools, all of which are in the Levittown School District. She also has been the district's assistant director of elementary education.

"I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to work with such outstanding students, staff, families and community members," Anspach said. "I am looking forward to sharing my passion of education with such dedicated, supportive and hardworking people."


New principals

Anthony Ciuffo is the new principal of Wantagh Middle School, while Jessica Zimmer is the new principal of Forest Lake Elementary.

Ciuffo previously served six years as principal of Forest Lake Elementary and before that was a teacher, elementary supervisor and assistant principal at Wantagh Middle School. He replaced Dawn Matrochano, who retired.

Zimmer, who replaced Ciuffo, served the past five years as elementary supervisor for Wantagh Elementary School. She also was an elementary teacher, lead teacher and instructional coach over 19 years in Copiague.

"Having been a part of the Wantagh family for the past 18 years, I understand the culture and passion that this community has for education," Ciuffo said. "I look forward to reaching a wider range of students and continuing to build positive relationships at my new home at the middle school."

"It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I join the Forest Lake school community," Zimmer said. "I am looking forward to working collaboratively with students, staff and families to ensure that our students find success as they begin their journeys toward becoming lifelong learners."

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