Seven Byram Hills High School Seniors Named Scholars in Regeneron Science Talent Search

Seven Byram Hills High School Seniors Named Scholars in Regeneron Science Talent Search

Byram Hills High School is pleased to announce that seven seniors have been named top scholars in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search, a high honor that recognizes the independent scientific research they conducted in the high school’s three-year Authentic Research Program.

Byram Hills High School is pleased to announce that seven seniors have been named top scholars in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search, a high honor that recognizes the independent scientific research they conducted in the high school’s three-year Authentic Research Program.

The students are Samantha Abbruzzese, Alan Chang, Rachel Chernoff, Alessandra Colella, Ethan Jacobs, Brent Perlman and Jonah Schwam.

Byram Hills Regeneron Semi-Finalists

Seven Byram Hills High School seniors were named scholars in Regeneron Science Talent Search. From left in the rear is Alessandra Colella, Alan Chang, Ethan Jacobs, Jonah Schwam, in the center is Rachel Chernoff, and in the front from left is Samantha Abbruzzese and Brent Perlman.

In all, 300 students were selected as scholars from nearly 2,000 entrants in this first round of the math and science competition founded in 1942. Each scholar wins $2,000 and moves on to the next round, and Byram Hills receives $14,000, or $2,000 per scholar, for STEAM education.

“Our seven top scholars represent the tremendous, groundbreaking work of our entire Authentic Science Research senior class of 27 students,” said Stephanie Greenwald, director of Byram Hills’ science research program. “Their hard work, sacrifice and determination brings great promise to the future of science. We are extremely proud of them.”

The Byram Hills winners were overjoyed, hugging and cheering in the science research classroom along with their teachers.

“It’s really rewarding,” Alan Chang said. “It’s just really nice to know that the program is being recognized for all of the hard work that everyone’s putting into it.”

The Society for Science & the Public, which runs the competition, selects scholars based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists.

"These amazing young people have demonstrated an exceptional degree of hard work and passion for discovery, said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public. “We are inspired by their brilliant thinking, and look forward to continue supporting them in their scientific endeavors."

On January 23, 40 of the 300 scholars will be named as finalists. In March, the finalists will go to Washington, where they will speak before judges and present their work to the public as they compete for more than $1.8 million in prizes. The winners will be announced on March 12.

The competition was founded to provide a national stage for the county’s young scientists to present their original work to professional scientists, following the belief that scientific advances are key to solving worldwide challenges.

Over the decades, the winners have had world-changing careers. The society says the winners have gone on to win 13 Nobel Prizes, 42 became National Academy of Sciences members, 19 were MacArthur Foundation fellows, 13 won National Medals of Science and five were Breakthrough Prize winners.

Here’s a closer look at the Byram Hills scholars’ work:

Samantha Abbruzzese: Samantha investigated the development of neurons from a mouse model of Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. She determined the impact that different gene-regulating proteins have on these neurons. The findings of her study could be used to develop a therapeutic approach for patients with Huntington's disease.

Alan Chang: Alan’s work focused on understanding how a specific tumor suppressor gene mutation promotes cancer progression, an important step in improving the development of cancer treatments. He programmed a novel computational method of analyzing cells using machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, and ultimately found several ways in which the tumor grew faster via immune evasion. By further applying this form of computational analysis, researchers can better understand genetic causes of tumor growth and increase the effectiveness of future cancer treatments.

Rachel Chernoff: Rachel's novel study used ischemic preconditioning, a research technique that protects the brain from a future stroke by depriving the brain of its blood supply in small amounts for brief periods. She investigated the source of a specific type of brain cell that helps with immunity and clearing cellular debris. As part of her work, she noticed behavioral differences after ischemic preconditioning between male and female mice, which may point to a hormonal difference. Together, her results lay the groundwork for the use of ischemic preconditioning as a potential preventative technique to reduce the damage from strokes.

Alessandra Colella: Using novel statistical measures, Alessandra investigated if variable responses in neuropsychological tests could be an indicator of the fogginess known as chemo-brain. Her findings could lead to a more accurate way of measuring cognitive decline in cancer patients.

Ethan Jacobs: Ethan mapped the population of river otter, beaver, muskrat, and raccoon species in three rivers in the Northeast. He used a novel method based on environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis to detect excreted DNA in collected water samples. His results help to further develop overall eDNA-based research, provide data for the distribution of mammal species in multiple rivers, and enhance the time and cost efficiency of population mapping methodology.

Brent Perlman: Brent induced photosynthesis in human cells by first isolating chloroplasts, the green components of plant cells that produce sugar and oxygen using the sun’s energy, from spinach leaves. By culturing the isolated chloroplasts in the same well as human cells, the cells incorporated and sequestered the isolated chloroplasts without digesting them, conducting photosynthesis over a period of 11 days. Brent's research has applications in the engineering of functional organs in a lab; the treatment of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer; the delivery of biopharmaceuticals to affected human cells in the body; and even space travel.

Jonah Schwam: Duchenne muscular dystrophy, caused by a point mutation on the DMD gene, leads to progressive decay in muscle tissue; however, it remains unknown which muscle cell type is most affected. Jonah used a novel CRISPR gene editing system to create modified muscle tissue consisting of dystrophic mature muscle cells and cured muscle stem cells. This model demonstrated the relative importance of muscle stem cells in regenerating dystrophic muscle tissue, optimizing all future gene therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Seven Byram Hills High School seniors were named scholars in Regeneron Science Talent Search. Pictured from left in the back row: Principal Christopher Walsh, Science Chairperson Debra Cayea, Science teacher Caroline Matthew, and scholars Alan Chang, Jonah Schwam, Ethan Jacobs, Brent Perlman and Superintendent Jen Lamia, in the middle is Authentic Science Research Program director Stephanie Greenwald, and in the front row from left, Rachel Chernoff, Alessandra Colella and Samantha Abbruzzese.