Herricks High School senior Rhea Rasquinha is among the top 300 scholars in the 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search, as announced by the Society for Science. More than 1,700 students representing 611 high schools throughout the nation and several other countries applied to the competition. Award recipients were selected based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists.
Rasquinha’s project is titled “Identifying the Prognostic, Tumor-Suppressive and Immunologic Roles of IRF5 in Breast Cancer.” She was mentored by Dr. Betsy Barnes of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research for two summers and was drawn to the focus on proteins, specifically, the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5). She spent this past summer studying IRF5 and breast cancer and learning different data analysis procedures.
“I applied my background in immunology research from the previous summer to look at the connections between IRF5, breast cancer tumors and the immune system,” Rasquinha said. “In true 2020 fashion, my project started out as an unknown, but it slowly took shape after a lot of trial, error and questions.”
Rasquinha and Herricks High School will each receive a $2,000 prize, and she is now eligible to advance in the competition for additional awards. She is a four-year Science Research participant and has studied under the guidance of teachers Renée Barcia and Caitlin Etri.
According to the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the program provides students with a national stage to present original research and celebrates the hard work and discoveries of young scientists who are bringing a fresh perspective to significant global challenges. This year, research projects cover topics from bioinformatics to public health and energy efficiency.
In addition to this outstanding honor, Rasquinha has been named the Class of 2021 Herricks High School valedictorian and was recognized as a National Merit Semifinalist earlier this school year. Inspired by her father, who was a physician, she wants to work towards making science and medicine more accessible and is considering studies in biomedical engineering in college.
—Submitted by Herricks Public Schools