Herricks High School Seniors Named Regeneron Science Talent Scholars

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Herricks High School seniors Caitlin Chheda, Aanya Goel and Roshni Patel have been named in the top 300 scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

The three were selected from more than 1,800 applicants representing 603 high schools nationally and internationally. Scholars were chosen based on research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and their promise as budding scientists. Each scholar and their schools will be awarded $2,000 to support STEM education.

By participating in this competition, students have access to a national stage to present their original research which brings a fresh perspective to significant global challenges. This year, research projects covered topics from tracking countries’ progress on Sustainable Development Goals to the impact of states’ individual COVID-19 responses, and improving the tools used to diagnose Alzheimer’s to analyzing the effects of virtual learning on education.

Chheda worked under the direction of Dr. Hannah Molla at the University of Chicago. Chheda’s project was The Impact of Sex and MDMA on Social Anxiety Evaluated by Subjective Responses. Dr. Molla had pre-collected data and sought to examine the prosocial effects of MDMA, a psychoactive drug, commonly known as ecstasy, E or molly, in social anxiety situations to determine a more effective treatment for the disorder. This study evaluated prosocial effects of MDMA in healthy human volunteers based on sex and subjective responses. At the University of Chicago, healthy human participants responded to questionnaires and were separated into low or high social anxiety groups. All data was previously collected by researchers and then sent to Caitlin for analysis.

Goel worked under the direction of Dr. Mark Underwood of the New York State Psychiatric Institute which is affiliated with Columbia University. Goel’s project was Inflammatory Markers Associated with Early Life Adversity in the Postmortem Human Brain. Her research focused on possible root causes of depression by studying early life adversity (ELA), a form of childhood stress (i.e., poverty, physical and verbal abuse, maternal separation), as it may be a possible initiator of major depressive disorder (MDD). The study evaluated the possibility of similar inflammatory responses in ELA individuals to determine if ELA may be a risk factor for depression. She evaluated the quinolinic and kynurenic acid levels in the post-mortem human brain tissue via chemical assays.

Patel’s worked under the direction of Dr. Anita Barber, assistant professor, The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, Zucker Hillside Hospital Behavioral Health Pavilion. Patel’s project entitled The Connectivity between the Medial Dorsal Nucleus of the Thalamus and the Cingulo-Opercular Network is Related to Psychosis Symptom Severity in a Youth Community Sample. Patel studied the multiple connections in our brains and the pathways each neuron fires into allow us to function the way we do. When these pathways are interrupted or something goes wrong, our cognitive abilities are no longer at peak performance. Using the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, a large cross-sectional date set of 8 to 21 years old from the greater Philadelphia area, she analyzed how those connections between the thalamus, located near the center of our brains, and our cortex, the outermost region of the brain, can affect those who present with psychosis.

The scholars hope to be among 40 finalists named later this month to compete for more than $1.8 million in awards.

—Submitted by Herricks Public Schools

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