South High School’s Regeneron STS Scholars are congratulated by science research teachers/advisors Nicole Spinelli (far left) and Dr. James Truglio (far right). (Photo from the Great Neck Public School District)

Seven Great Neck South High School Students Named Regeneron STS Scholars

Earlier this month, the Society for Science announced the top 300 scholars in the 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search. Seven students from Great Neck South High School were named 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) Scholars. Brandon Kim, Luke Huang, Brian Liu, Helen Tang, Maggie Wu, Alexander Xu, and Tiffany Zhang achieved this honor in one of the nation’s most prestigious science competitions.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 2,162 entrants from 712 high schools across 46 states, Puerto Rico and ten other countries.

According to the Great Neck Public School District, “This year, South High School has the largest number of Scholars of any school in the region.”

“These seven Scholars and their faculty advisors have brought tremendous pride to Great Neck and their families,” praised Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Bossert. “The hard work, dedication, creativity, and time it takes to have work considered among the best in the nation is truly a reflection of the effort given to the task. I am certain these aspiring researchers will continue to make significant contributions in their selected areas of interest.”

The South High science research program is led by teachers/advisors Nicole Spinelli and Dr. James Truglio. Regeneron STS Scholars and their project titles are:
• Luke Huang, “Multiscale Analysis of the Hubble Tension in an Evaluation of the LAMBDACDM Model”
• Brandon Kim, “Deciphering Receptor-Ligand Connectomes in Models of Lung Adenocarcinoma”
• Brian Liu, “Evaluating the Applied Effectiveness of ECG Compression Algorithms for Myocardial Infarction Detection”
• Helen Tang, “Impact of Unmet Social Needs on Acute and Long-Term Outcomes in COVID-19 Patients”
• Maggie Wu, “Effects of Dissolved Oxygen Levels on the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Denitrification Performance of Woodchip Bioreactors Treating Onsite Wastewater”
• Alexander Xu, “CARe-BERT: BERT-Powered Graph Augmentation for Context-Aware Radiology Report Retrieval”
• Tiffany Zhang, “Resolving the Constraints Imposed by Chiral Effective Field Theory and Perturbative Quantum Chromodynamics on the Neutron Star Equation of State”

Great Neck South High School teacher and advisor Spinelli has two sections of honors science research and one section of senior seminar research, and she teaches Regents Physics. Part of her role as the research teacher is to mentor and advise her students in their projects, beginning toward the end of June when students initially submit their research plans.

“The students have the freedom to choose whatever topic they’re most interested in,” shared Spinelli. “For example, we have a handful of projects involving leveraging artificial intelligence for different purposes. They get to choose whatever they’re interested in and passionate about.”

Over the summer, the students submit their International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) forms and a research plan. Spinelli comments on their plans and reviews their outlines for their manuscripts, which they will start writing and submitting over the summer while conducting their studies. The studies and research are conducted independently from home or through university labs.

“Some of the students will reach out to university labs on the basis of what they’re most passionate about,” said Spinelli. “One of the students was interested in astronomy and found a mentor to sort of help them get the data that they needed in order to conduct the study they came up with.”

The application process for the Regeneron Science Talent Search is extensive. Spinelli shared that first, the student must conduct a novel study based on literature.

“They read a lot of primary papers that come from peer-reviewed journals. And on the basis of what knowledge gaps still exist, or what shortcomings exist to problems that are prevalent in the world, they will design a novel approach to solving that problem,” explained Spinelli. “Once they’ve come up with a novel study, they have to conduct it and independently will analyze their own data.”

“The sort of main component of their Regeneron application is a manuscript. The manuscript is your typical research manuscript presenting their findings, the rationale behind the design they chose, the methods they implemented, their key findings, and the implications of those findings and then fitting it into the context of the literature,” said Spinelli. “So, how does this converge with what we already know? Where does it differ from what we already know?”

In addition to the manuscript and research, the students must submit an official high school transcript, letters of recommendation from educators and a project manager and complete essay questions.

Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science, and executive publisher of Science News, said this year’s competition had a record-breaking number of applications. “I am truly impressed by the quality of the projects and the ingenuity that each student brings to the competition. Their diligence, passion, and perseverance should be celebrated.”

Each Scholar will receive $2,000, with a matching amount for their school. Spinelli shared that the amount given to the school is intended for the science department and goes toward the STEM fields.

Spinelli described her students as “excited and sort of mind blown” when the results were released earlier this month.

On Jan. 24, 40 of the top 300 Scholars will be announced as Finalists and will advance to the national competition.

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