Two Byram Hills High School seniors were selected as finalists for the Neuroscience Research Prize given by the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society.
Seniors Samantha Abbruzzese and Rachel Chernoff, both students in the high school’s Dr. Robert Pavlica Authentic Science Research Program, are among the 12 finalists chosen from a field of 74 high school students around the country.
The 12, notified of their finalist status this week, advance to the next round, which culminates with four winners being announced in February.
“We are very proud of these two accomplished women who are passionate about neuroscience and have the highest standards for the work they produce,” said Stephanie Greenwald, director of the three-year science research program.
Rachel's novel study used ischemic preconditioning, a research technique that protects the brain from future stroke damage by depriving its blood supply in short episodes. Using this technique, she investigated the source of a specific type of brain cell that helps with immunity and clearing cellular debris.
As part of her work, Rachel noticed behavioral differences after ischemic preconditioning between male and female mice, which may point to a hormonal difference in their reactions to neural trauma. Together, her results lay the groundwork for the use of ischemic preconditioning as a potential preventative technique to reduce the damage from strokes.
Samantha investigated the development of neurons in a mouse model of Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder. She determined the impact that different gene-regulating proteins have on these neurons. Her findings could be used to develop a therapeutic approach for people with Huntington's disease.
The Neuroscience Research Prize, which has been awarded since 1993, honors students whose skill and talent show potential for scientific contributions in the field of neuroscience.
The four winners will receive $1,000 each. Three of those winners and their teachers will be invited to present their work at the academy’s annual meeting in Philadelphia, and the fourth winner and a teacher will have the opportunity to present to the society’s annual meeting.