With the most semifinalists of any region in the country, Long Island has continued its successful streak in scientific prowess as 50 local high school seniors were named Wednesday as Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars in the nation’s most prestigious competition for students.
Great Neck South High School alone fielded seven semifinalists, known as scholars. In Copiague, Walter G. O'Connell High School's Kemmora Simmons is that district's first semifinalist.
“We are extremely excited,” said O'Connell Principal Joseph Agosta. “We are beyond thrilled and there aren’t enough words to say how proud of we are of Kemmora.”
The Society for Science announced the top 300 students in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2024 Wednesday afternoon. The 50 local seniors from both public and private schools are among those honored nationally and internationally, according to the Washington, D.C.-based society, which runs the contest.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Fifty Long Island high school seniors were named as 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search semifinalists in the nation’s most prestigious competition for students.
- Great Neck South High School had seven semifinalists. In Copiague, Walter G. O'Connell High School's Kemmora Simmons is that district's first semifinalist.
- The Society for Science announced the top 300 students in the nation in the science talent search on Wednesday afternoon.
At Great Neck South, senior Alexander Xu, 17, was among the students recognized for his research. A volunteer EMT, his project involved a new way to search radiology reports. He developed his research over the summer while working in a lab at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“To get this award, people spent their summer working in labs, and that includes reading a lot of literature each day and really critically thinking about what they are reading and how they can improve on what they read,” he said. He learned he had been named a scholar during research class Wednesday.
Senior Luke Huang, 17, whose project focused on cosmology, was also named a scholar.
“I'm extremely happy for all the seven people who made it. It is a really big accomplishment for our school,” he said. “I also feel like there are students whose projects who were deserving of the award and I feel a bit saddened they didn't win. Their work definitely deserved it."
Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington had five semifinalists, and two other schools had four — Herricks High School in New Hyde Park and Syosset High School.
Each scholar and their school will be awarded $2,000. On Jan. 24, 40 of the 300 students will be selected as finalists and granted a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in March for a piece of $1.8 million in prize money.
The Long Island students researched a variety of topics, from the use of artificial intelligence to categorizing wildfire origins, attitudes toward the war in Ukraine and the neurobiology of suicide. Regeneron scholars typically spend weeks or months on their projects, working closely with mentors who guide their research. Projects can often take more than a year.
Nassau had 41 semifinalists and Suffolk had nine. Among the semifinalists were students at two private schools — Saint Anthony's High School in South Huntington had two and Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead had one.
At Walter G. O’Connell High School, Simmons, who studied the impact of stress on fruit flies, found out she was a semifinalist on Wednesday morning and shared the news with her father, Devone Simmons, who works in the district in security.
She’d always had an interest in medicine and science, she said, and as she researched for her project by reading medical journals, “I became more and more excited by what I was reading.”
She counted on the staff at O’Connell, where she did her research and experiments. “I had to come to their offices early in the morning or stay late after school and they would stay as a guide and they would give me ideas of how I can improve,” said Simmons, the school's valedictorian.
Renee Locker, chair of science at O'Connell, said staffers grew teary upon learning of Simmons’ achievement Wednesday — they were just so proud of her. Simmons is often at school way beyond when classes end and bounces questions off several educators until she's certain she has found the right answer, educators said.
“She is very talented and is extremely bright — her commitment is unrivaled,” Locker said.
Her project was titled: “The Effect of the Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical Soy on the Psychological Stress Levels of Neonatal Drosophila melanogaster.”
Last year, nearly 40 Long Island students were named scholars, with three making the finals, earning $25,000 each. In 2022, Long Island fielded 49 semifinalists, including Amber Luo, then a senior at Ward Melville High School, who finished third and earned a $150,000 prize.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 2,162 entrants from 712 high schools across 46 states, Puerto Rico and 10 other countries — the highest number of entrants since 1969 and an increase of more than 200 from 2023, according to the society.