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Central Islip has top scholar for first time in Regeneron Science Talent Search

Manhasset High School, with four students, had the most scholars among Long Island districts Wednesday in the Regeneron Science Talent Search. Yu Zhu, 17, became the first student at Central Islip High School to win the recognition. Credit: Howard Schnapp; James Carbone

A total of 36 students from 20 Long Island public school districts were honored Wednesday in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, with at least one school system — Central Islip — fielding a top scholar for the first time in the contest's nearly 80-year history.

Yu Zhu, 17, of Central Islip High School was named a scholar for his project titled "The effects of simulated microgravity on the biofilm production and susceptibility of Acinetobacter Tat mutants." The school entered the science and math contest for the first time.

Manhasset High School, with four students, had the most scholars among Island districts. A total of 300 high school seniors from 39 states and one U.S. territory were chosen from the first round of competition. Each student will receive $2,000 for the honor. Each school also will get $2,000 per honoree, which means Manhasset High will receive $8,000.

"We are proud of all of them because even just to enter really shows so much about all of them," said Thomas Elkins, Manhasset's district coordinator for science, technology and health education.

Regeneron scholars typically spend weeks or months in university laboratories, working closely with adult faculty. Research projects this year cover topics from medicine and health to environmental science.

Forty of the 300 will become Regeneron finalists on Jan. 22. Finalists receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington from March 5-11, where they will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards, including the top prize of $250,000.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biopharmaceutical firm in Tarrytown, has funded the contest since 2016, and has doubled the annual prize money. The competition previously was funded by Intel Corp., a California-based maker of computer chips, and before that by Westinghouse Corp. The first competition was in 1942.

While funding sources have changed over the years, the prestigious contest has been run continuously by the Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit membership group based in Washington.

This year's scholars were selected from 1,993 applications received from 659 high schools across 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and eight countries. Scholars were chosen based on their research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists — and hail from 192 U.S. and international high schools in 39 states and Guam.

Zhu, 17, became the first student at Central Islip High to win the recognition. He is valedictorian of his class and hopes to go to Harvard or Yale after graduation. When Zhu’s science research teacher, Roann Roderick, made the announcement in front of his classmates, Zhu said, “Oh, really?”

StudentHigh School NameDistrictProject title
Andrew BrintonJohn F. Kennedy High SchoolBellmore-MerrickMarsh Restoration: Ribbed Mussels (Geukensia demissa) as a Revival Mechanism to Rebuild the Coastal Salt Marshes of Long Island, New York
Kenar Gelman John F. Kennedy High SchoolBellmore-MerrickChondrocyte Adenosine A2A receptor signaling leads to cellular homeostasis through activation of Protein Kinase A (PKA)
Katherine St. GeorgeJohn F. Kennedy High SchoolBellmore-MerrickThe Ketogenic Diet Ameliorates The Effects of Caffeine in Seizure Susceptible Drosophila melanogaster
Yu ZhuCentral Islip High School Central IslipThe effects of simulated microgravity on the biofilm production and susceptibility of Acinetobacter Tat mutants.
Kimberly LiaoCommack High SchoolCommackIdentification of a Model Agnostic Disease Driver in Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis; Implications for Drug Development
SShamtej Singh RanaCommack High SchoolCommackWildfire Prediction and Reduction for the West Coast of the USA Using a Neural Network Approach
Abishek RavindranW. Tresper Clarke High SchoolEast MeadowImplementation of Novel Sector Weight and Google Trends Data Objectives using MOEA/D Curtails Systematic Risk for Quintessential Investors
Karen LiThe Wheatley School East WillistonProbing the Interactions between Carbohydrates and Aromatic Amino Acids
Nicole KhaimovGlen Cove High School Glen CoveEmotional Intelligence and Moral Competence Across Age Groups: A Study of Secondary School Students and Teachers
Kallista ZhuangGreat Neck South High School Great NeckA Novel Link Between Xenoestrogen Bisphenol-A's Neurotoxicity and Neuroinflammation via Estrogenic Activity and Alzheimer's Disease Pathogenesis
Carrie HsuHerricks High School HerricksDevelopment of a Frustrated Total Internal Reflection Biosensing System for Noninvasive Terahertz Imaging and Detecting Cell Growth
Bhav PatelHerricks High School HerricksChanges in Neural Connectivity Underlying Attention Abilities Before and After Antipsychotic Treatment in First Episode Psychosis Patients
Sejal GuptaHicksville High SchoolHicksvilleDevelopment of a Machine Learning Algorithm to Predict the Path of Joints for Gait Rehabilitation
Sheryl LinIsland Trees High SchoolIsland TreesArtesunate and Quercetin in Combination - Mitigation of Amyloid Plaque-Induced Cytotoxicity in Alzheimer's
Feiyang DaiJericho High SchoolJerichoPredicting Major Depressive Disorder Treatment Response: Examining Pretreatment Biomarkers GABA and Glx
Emily GanJericho High SchoolJerichoLight manipulation for outdoor microalgae cultivation: Fluorophore co-cultivation and microbiome characterization of model and environmental isolates
Jennifer LinJericho High SchoolJerichoLysosomal nutrient metabolism: Amino acids and cholesterol synergistically modulate mTORC1 signaling in atherosclerosis
Sara BahriLynbrook High SchoolLynbrookAltered Bilayer Elasticity as a Novel Mechanism for Aminoglycoside Antibiotics' Toxicity
Kevin CarratuManhasset High SchoolManhassetSupplementation of Antioxidants with Curcumin, Quercetin, and L-glutathione to Reduce Dopaminergic Neurodegeneration, Alpha-synuclein Accumulation, and Decreased Motility Associated with Parkinson's in Caenorhabditis elegans
Kevin GauldManhasset High SchoolManhassetOptimizing Neural Image Classifiers Through the Usage of Neural Style Transfer in Image Preprocessing
Ella WessonManhasset High SchoolManhassetEngineering One Layer of a Two-Dimensional Acoustic Band Gap Material and Reconstructing the Sound Pressure Field Using Acoustic Holography
Elizabeth WuManhasset High SchoolManhassetDeveloping Algorithmic Machinery to Explore the Cosmological Horizon Problem by Numerically Solving Maxwell's Equations in the Kasner Metric
Keaton DanseglioNorth Shore High School North ShoreTransgenerational Effects of Paternal Stress in Drosophila melanogaster
Kyra McCreeryNorth Shore High School North ShoreAssociations between the Slowdown in North Atlantic Tropical-Cyclone Translation Speed and Intensifying Storm Precipitation
Kreena TotalaPlainview-Old Bethpage JFK High SchoolPlainview-Old BethpageThe Novel Quantification of White Matter Microstructural Alterations in Thalamocortical Tracts as a Predictive Measure of ADHD Behavior and Subtype in a Pediatric Population
Priya ChainaniPaul D. Schreiber High School Port WashingtonThe Predictability of U.S. Drug Deaths Through State Level Income Inequality and Neuroticism
Jaime LevinPaul D. Schreiber High School Port WashingtonCategorizing geocoded anti-vaccination tweets in urban areas using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) and dictionary-based modeling
William BorgesRoslyn High School RoslynAn Innovative Approach to Recover Nitrogen from Wastewater Using Nanostructured Cellulose Sulfate
Andrew GoldbergRoslyn High School RoslynCompression of Intrinsic Neural Timescale in Schizophrenia
Jake StollerRoslyn High School RoslynExamining the Effects of Decitabine on the Efficacy of DS-3032b in Dedifferentiated Liposarcoma
Caitlin WilkinsonSmithtown High School EastSmithtownRates and Traits: The Potential for Utilizing Above-ground Plant Traits to Predict Denitrification in Long Island Salt Marshes
Stephanie LinSmithtown High School WestSmithtownConvolutional Neural Network of Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI Detects Axillary Lymph Node Metastasis in Breast Cancer Patients Pre Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy
Hailey EdelmanSyosset High SchoolSyossetExploring the Role of Cannabidiol in a Caenorhabditis elegans Model
Michelle LiSyosset High SchoolSyossetLinarin and Luteolin Elicit Anti-Amyloid-BETA Cytotoxicity and Inflammation Properties as Novel Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease
Jordan KleinWard Melville High School Three VillagePrevalence of Tick-Borne Diseases in Fire Island Deer Ticks
Mariam QuraishiWard Melville High School Three VillageThe Effect of Sibling Status of Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder on Symptom Severity and Social Development

“At first, I was a little bit dumbfounded,” Zhu said of his reaction. “Although I didn’t seem too excited on the outside, it was because I was a little bit surprised. But inside, I’m really grateful and very happy.”

The aim of his two-year project was to address how biofilm behaves differently in space and how different classes of antibiotics affect the eradication of different biofilms, Zhu said. He used the facilities and advice from Hofstra University professors to execute his project, as well as moral support from Roderick.

”There were days he would be here until 6 o’clock at night,” said Roderick, who’s been teaching at the school for 15 years. “To watch him grow and become a legitimate research scientist over the years, it’s really rewarding and that’s not something you could put a price tag on.”

On Long Island, other high schools fielding multiple honorees were John F. Kennedy High School in the Bellmore-Merrick district; Commack High School; Ward Melville High School, Three Village district; North Shore High School; Jericho High School; Herricks High School; Paul D. Schreiber High School, Port Washington district; Syosset High School; and Roslyn High School.

In Manhasset, most of those honored were in the middle of an exam when the results were announced at noon.

"Right after I got out, I opened my phone and got a text and I was really surprised and really happy," said Kevin Gauld, 17, whose project, titled "Optimizing Neural Image Classifiers Through the Usage of Neural Style Transfer in Image Preprocessing," looked at using machine models to classify images more accurately.

Manhasset's other scholars were Ella Wesson, Kevin Carratu and Elizabeth Wu.

Wesson, who plays the flute, examined the properties of sound waves for her project titled "Engineering One Layer of a Two-Dimensional Acoustic Band Gap Material and Reconstructing the Sound Pressure Field Using Acoustic Holography."

"Sound waves were always interesting to me," said Wesson, 17. "After taking physics, I wanted to look at them in a more scientific way and not just an artistic way."

Jericho High often has had multiple honorees, and this year had three scholars: Emily Gan, Jennifer Lin and Feiyang "Daisy" Dai. Gan's project was titled "Light manipulation for outdoor microalgae cultivation: Fluorophore co-cultivation and microbiome characterization of model and environmental isolates." Her project could help reduce the cost and environmental impact of the mass production of biofuels.

Gan chose this type of work because of its combination of biology, chemistry and physics. She said she was surprised to learn she was a Regeneron scholar.

Individual winners were named from high schools in the Smithtown, Glen Cove, Great Neck, Hicksville, Island Trees, Lynbrook, Plainview-Old Bethpage, East Meadow and East Williston districts.

This year, New York continued to dominate the competition with 92 scholars named, followed by California with 33.

Last year, there were 53 scholars named from Long Island. That number narrowed in the finals to five students, who took home a $25,000 prize each.

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