Emily McDermott Named Intel Semifinalist

High School East senior Emily McDermott has been named a semifinalist in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search. Emily has been recognized for her research in developing an experimental model for natural variation in genetic robustness. She will be awarded $1,000 with an additional $1,000 going to High School East to support STEM education.

Emily, a senior in the science research program, conducted her research in the lab of Dr. Joshua Rest, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University. Also integral in the lab were Dr. Christopher Morales, a Post Doctoral associate, and Kash Bandaralage, a research support specialist. Her project, “Developing an Experimental Model for Natural Variation in Genetic Robustness,” investigated the concepts of environmental and genetic robustness as reflected through complex network of molecular interactions. She sought to develop an experimental model to study the relationship of robustness in the natural world by using wild strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, budding yeast. 

“The moment I found out about being a semifinalist was amazing, overwhelming, and unforgettable,” Emily said. “Science is all about discovery and learning, and to be recognized for all my hard work is an honor beyond belief.”
Emily has worked with High School East Research Coordinator Maria Zeitlin over the last three years to conduct her research.  According to Ms. Zeitlin, Emily’s work was on par with graduate level study. In addition to performing all of the experimental bench work herself, Emily also wrote the computer code to do the analysis.
“She was not a high-school student in a lab, but rather an integral member of the lab in regards to her project,” Ms. Zeitlin said. “She was passionate in her discoveries, and it was reflected by the quality of the paper she produced. I am so proud of this incredible student whom I have had the privilege of working with for three years. She is intuitive, diligent, intelligent and her ease with computer coding reinforces that young girls can code...and can code well! Beyond her science skills, Emily is a wonderful person to be around. She is always contributing whether it be by helping a class peer or creating an amazing science display. Everything she does is 110% and I am so pleased that she is receiving the much deserved recognition.”
Added High School East Principal Ed Thompson, “It is not surprising to find out that Emily McDermott has been chosen as an Intel semifinalist for the 2015-16 school year. Emily is a dedicated and enthusiastic student who is extremely motivated to do the best in whatever she does.”

Continuing, he notes the countless hours of dedicated research Emily performed with Ms. Zeitlin. “As principal, I am very proud of both Emily and Ms. Zeitlin for what they have accomplished. Emily is a multi-talented, intelligent and extremely hardworking student who excels in everything that she becomes involved in. I am very excited to see what she accomplishes in her future. She is by far one of the most committed and hardworking students I have had the pleasure of working with in my 33 year educational career."

The Intel Science Talent Search, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competition. From more than 1,700 applicants, 300 were selected as semifinalists, which will be further narrowed to finalists on Jan. 20.  

From that select pool of semifinalists, 40 student finalists are invited to Washington, D.C., in March to participate in final judging, display their work to the public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for awards, including the top three awards of $150,000 each.