Four Westchester HS seniors make Regeneron Science Talent Search finals

Four Westchester high school seniors are among this year's 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists. The prestigious award ensures at least $25,000 in college scholarship money per student.

The finalists, announced just after noon on Tuesday, were chosen from 300 semifinalists that were announced two weeks ago, 32 of whom were from Westchester. The finalists attend Harrison, Scarsdale, Byram Hills and Ossining high schools.

In March, they will compete for the top 10 slots in the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Those winners could earn between $40,000 and $250,000 to put toward their higher education.

The 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists for 2023.
The 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists for 2023.

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Meet the winners

These are the four local finalists, with descriptions of their work provided by the talent search.

Ariella Blackman, Harrison High School. Project title: "Developing a Model In-situ Resource Utilization System for Oxygen Sustaining Life Support and Launch Cost Reduction for Mars."

Blackman investigated ways to amend simulated Martian soil to allow plant growth and the production of oxygen for future astronauts on Mars by testing the oxygen production of heat- and drought-tolerant bean plants. She mixed different proportions of Earth soil and artificial Martian soil and found the range of soil mixtures that showed the most promise.

Cindy DeDianous, Scarsdale High School. Project title: "Alpha Retinal Ganglion Cell Dysfunction Precedes Vascular Dysfunction in a Mouse Model of Type 1 Diabetes."

DeDianous' research on a type of diabetic eye disease indicates that damage to the retinal neurons actually begins much earlier than thought, within weeks of the onset of diabetes. She hopes her work will one day lead to early diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Samantha Milewicz, Byram Hills High School. Project title: "Selective Inhibition of Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Attenuates Traumatic Brain Injury Mediated Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in a Novel Dynamic in vitro Model."

Milewicz studied how the body’s normal immune reaction to traumatic brain injury can cause secondary damage to the blood brain barrier by overproducing a protein that’s usually helpful. She observed that by reducing overproduction of MMP-9, the barrier maintained its structure better, which may indicate possible future therapeutic potential.

Joseph Robertazzi, Ossining High School. Project title: "Migration and Magnetism: A Longitudinal Analysis Identifying the Relationship Between the South Atlantic Anomaly and Shifts in Migratory Bird Populations."

Robertazzi investigated whether a changing weak spot in the Earth’s magnetic field in the southern hemisphere influences the migratory patterns of birds. He did so by analyzing the patterns of four species of birds that normally migrate through this weak spot, known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. He suggests additional study be done to explore avian magnetoreception and this exceptional behavior in birds

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Feb. 10, 2020 in Tarrytown.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Feb. 10, 2020 in Tarrytown.

About the Science Talent Search

The science competition is sponsored by Westchester-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the Society for Science & the Public. The nation's oldest science and math competition for high schoolers began in 1942, with Regeneron taking over sponsorship in 2017.

Program alumni have earned some of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 22 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. Regeneron co-founder, president and chief science officer George Yancopoulos was a winner of the 1976 Science Talent Search.

“Inspiring and equipping the brightest minds to take on the world’s most pressing issues is one of the most important ways we can ensure the scientific advancements necessary to better our society," Yancopoulos said in a statement. "We know the future is bright for these young scientists and are excited to see the positive impact they will make.”

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists include 4 from Westchester