Students Earn Siemens Honor

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The Syosset and Jericho school districts recently announced a special honor for five students.

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Elaine He

Three students from Jericho and two from Syosset were named in the prestigious 2014 Siemens Competition in math, science and technology.

Elaine He and Jiwei (Vivian) Zhong, both seniors, received special recognition by having their names published on the Siemens Competition website.

“I’m extremely proud of both of these accomplished students,” said Dr. Giovanni Durante, the principal of Syosset High School. “Their hard work has paid off, their futures are extraordinarily bright and they are wonderful ambassadors of Syosset High School.”

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Jiwei Zhong

He’s research project title was “Identification of the target site of ADS-J1, the first small molecule HIV fusion inhibitor, using mutagenesis strategy.” She researched the potential to inhibit HIV from entering new host cells at the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute at the New York Blood Center.

Zhong’s research project title was “Regulating the Catalytic Kinetics of Thiol-stabilized Gold Nanoparticle Polymer Composites.”  She conducted research at St. John’s University to compose a model for using gold nanoparticle catalysts on a wide-scale basis to promote greater efficiency in waste-free energy production for fuel cells.

The Siemens Competition is a highly competitive national contest that recognizes remarkable talent early in their scientific careers, fostering individual growth for high school students who are willing to challenge themselves through science research. Through this competition, students have an opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research that they complete in high school. The competition is administered by Discovery Education and is funded by the Siemens Foundation, a nonprofit arm of Siemens AG.

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Jericho students Steve Zheng, William Crugnola and Derek Xu

Meanwhile, three Jericho High School students, William Crugnola, Derek Xu and Steve Zheng, were named semifinalists in the 2014 Siemens Competition in math, science and technology, the nation’s premier research competition for high school students. Crugnola was then named a regional finalist in the competition.

Crugnola’s project is titled “Aortic Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells: A Novel Drug Target for Atherosclerosis Cessation.” Of his project, Crugnola said that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death around the world, especially in developed countries such as the U.S. Atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, is widely known to be the foremost cause of cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, he said, current treatments of atherosclerosis have proven to be ineffective, resulting in nearly 18 million cardiovascular deaths each year. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) have recently become attractive targets for treatments of a wide array of inflammatory diseases. MSCs present in the aorta have been scarcely studied, which is why little is known about their role in the body.

“During the summer, my partner and I investigated the role of aortic MSCs in relation to the buildup of arterial plaque. We found that aortic MSCs actually promote the buildup of arterial plaque by inducing white blood cells known as macrophages to transform into harmful foam cells,” said Crugnola. “Foam cell accumulate in blood vessels and harden. Harden foam cells block blood flow and lead to atherosclerosis. After our first discovery, we looked into the interaction between aortic MSCs, hoping to discover the mechanism by which aortic MSCs cause macrophages to transform into foam cells. We accomplished this goal, thus establishing a fundamental mechanism that can be targeted for drug blocking as a superior treatment method for atherosclerosis.”

Steve Zheng’s project is titled “Synthesis of a Novel Metal Organic Framework for the Application of CO2 Separation in Carbon Capture and Storage.” Zheng said that because of the exponentially increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, he sought to mitigate the pollution crisis by finding new materials for carbon dioxide capture in Carbon Capture and Storage. His project involved the synthesis of a novel adsorbent for CO2 capture by targeting certain chemical properties of CO2 that he could essentially take advantage of. Integrating an anion called SiF6 (hexafluorosilicate), his compound was able to adsorb a significantly large quantity of carbon dioxide, outperforming that of certain other published adsorbents such as MOF-2 and ZIF-8.

“Additional analysis sought to answer my compound’s practicality in industrial settings by analyzing thermal and chemical stability and its overall selectivity of CO2 over other flue gases,” he said.

Derek Xu’s project was titled “Inhibition of Cyclin D1 by Isorhapontigenin in Glioblastoma Multiforme Cancer Stem Cells.”

“Patients afflicted with glioblastoma currently suffer from abysmal survival rates, with a five-year patient survival rate of less than 5 percent,” said Xu. “The lethal nature of glioblastoma can be explained by the existence of tumor-sustaining cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are both resistant to current treatments as well as capable of re-creating entire new tumors on its own.”

Xu’s study aims to test an organic compound known as isorhapontigenin (ISO) on its ability to treat glioblastoma CSCs as well as to determine the biological pathway ISO uses to induce its anti-cancer effects.

“Collectively, the present study supports the concept of using ISO as a viable, efficient chemotherapeutic to treat glioblastomas by specifically targeting glioblastoma CSCs via the miR-145/SOX 2/Cyclin D1 pathway, encouraging the need for clinical trials to eventually bring ISO to glioblastoma patients worldwide,” he said.

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Steve Mosco, former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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