At 7 years old, Miah Margiano was diagnosed with leukemia and didn’t respond to treatment, making her a high-risk patient.
She received therapy in Philadelphia, where she met a new best friend who was also being treated for childhood cancer. Margiano's cancer was in remission by age 8, and she is now 18 and a senior at St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington. But her friend died at a very young age.
That loss stayed with Margiano and eventually led her to study the childhood cancer — neuroblastoma — that ended her friend's life.
"I wanted to do this research in her honor to pave the way for a breakthrough," said Margiano, of Syosset.
What to Know
- Miah Margiano, of St. Anthony's High School, and two seniors from Jericho High School — Emily Kim and Kevin Zhu — were among 40 finalists chosen to compete in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023.
- Long Island's three finalists next will compete in March for more than $1.8 million in prizes in Washington, D.C.
- They were selected from 300 semifinalists and nearly 2,000 entrants in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation's oldest and most prestigious competition for young scientists.
On Tuesday, Margiano's research resulted in her being selected as one of three Long Island high school finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 competition, the nation's oldest and most prestigious contest for young scientists.
Margiano and two seniors from Jericho High School — Emily Kim and Kevin Zhu — are among 40 finalists in the competition, which draws national and international entries.
The three Long Island finalists will join the others in Washington, D.C., in March to compete for more than $1.8 million in prizes. The event runs from March 9-15 with winners announced March 14.
They were among Long Island's 38 Regeneron semifinalists named this month and were selected from 300 semifinalists nationwide out of nearly 2,000 entrants.
St. Anthony's High School
Project Title: Potential Influence of LncRNAs in Tumor Regression: An Analysis of Prognostic LncRNAs in Neuroblastoma
Credit: Ray O'Connor Photography
Students were selected based on the originality and creativity of their research, as well as achievement and leadership, both inside and outside the classroom, according to the Society for Science, which runs the competition.
Finalists will face a rigorous judging process that will go beyond their own research to encompass other scientific disciplines, according to the society.
Each finalist receives $25,000, and the top 10 finishers are awarded between $40,000 and $250,000. As semifinalists, students and their schools each received $2,000.
"Miah is the best of the best," said Paul Paino, director of St. Anthony's research program. "She has the two things that we look for in high school science research students. She has the intelligence and the passion for what she does."
Margiano studied the childhood cancer neuroblastoma (NB), and identified a genetic sequence that was expressed in higher amounts among patients with low-risk NB. The genetic sequence she found may help regulate tumor growth pathways and be associated with increased survival in patients with low-risk NB, according to the Society for Science.
Margiano was at home Monday when she learned she'd made the finals.
"I picked up my phone and ran into my room and I held my composure but I screamed right afterwards," she said of the call from the Society of Science.
"My mom heard me scream and came in and that is when I broke the news to her and we were both on cloud nine."
Zhu was driving Monday when his cellphone’s caller ID flashed “Society for Science” so he pulled over and took the call, learning he had been named a finalist.
“All I could really say was ‘Oh my God’ and ‘thank you,’” he said Tuesday.
Jericho Senior High School
Project Title: Recurrent Repeat Contractions and Micro-Changing Short Tandem Repeats: Investigating Underrepresented Factors of Polymorphism in Human Cancers
Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas
Zhu, 17, studied types of DNA changes often associated with neurological disease and found they may have strong associations with cancer. His research may prove useful as measurable indicators, called biomarkers, for future cancer blood tests, according to the society.
He said his research represented the culmination of three years of work.
“Cancer was an understudied field in context of the mutation I was looking at,” he said, adding his project focused on a central question: "Where can we make the most impact?”
Kim, who did her research at Stony Brook University, home and school, “couldn't believe it when I got the news that I was a Regeneron finalist," she said. "I had the biggest smile on my face, and I'm so excited to meet all the other finalists.”
Jericho Senior High School
Project Title: The Dual Roles of Activated Carbon as an Adsorbent and Photocatalyst for Azo Dye Removal
Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas
Her project focused on how activated carbon can remove commonly used dyes from wastewater through the processes of adsorption and photocatalysts, showing that there may be promise in using activated carbon to treat the wastewater produced by the "fast fashion" and textile industries, according to the Society for Science.
Kim said she had noticed the presence of fast fashion on social media and began her research on its impact, as well as that of textile industries, globally, both from an environmental and humanitarian perspective. She specifically looked into the mass production and release of toxic dyes in underdeveloped countries that led to dye pollution. Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothes created and sold for very low prices, she said.
“For me as a teenager who is living in the United States, I saw how prevalent fast fashion was among my generation … and I was compelled to do something,” she said.
Serena McCalla, science research coordinator in Jericho, said the national competition allows students to present their research to a platform of scientists to be judged on its scientific merit. Jericho High School had five semifinalists.
Long Island had seven finalists in 2022, including Amber Luo, a senior at Ward Melville High School last year who finished third and claimed a $150,000 prize. Luo is now studying at Stanford University.