East and West students named as Regeneron Semifinalists

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Two science researchers from Smithtown Central School District are among the 53 Long Island students who have been named semifinalists in the 2019 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the country’s oldest high school competition in the math and sciences. The top 300 science research students nationwide were chosen for this honor.

High School East senior Anthony D’Amore was recognized for his research, “Habitat Preference Drives Brain Shape in Crocodylomorphs” while High School West’s Alexander Rodriguez was honored for his research on “A Genomic and Pharmacological Analysis of Adenosine Receptors in the Sea Anemone Nematostella vectensis.”

Anthony used a novel approach for mapping the endocranial structures within both extinct and extant crocodylomorphs. Mentored by Dr. Alan Turner at Stony Brook University, Anthony worked on par with graduate students to analyze anatomical evolutionary trends by using digital software to provide a novel approach of modeling brain cavities.  

“Anthony spent untold hours mapping structures, analyzing subtle changes of brain shape over evolutionary time, and connecting the information to habitat preferences of both modern crocs as well as extinct species,” said Maria Zeitlin, High School East research coordinator. 

Alex’s work is the first to show that the tiny sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, possesses functional purinergic receptors. These receptors are important because they are involved in physiologic functions such as sleep and coronary regulation. Alex focused on analyzing the genomic and pharmacological properties of purinergic receptors in this basil organism. He hopes that his work will lead to a better understanding of the evolution of these receptors. Alex has been working on his project since his sophomore year in the in-house science research lab at West. 

Dr. Joanne Figueiredo, his mentor and science research coordinator at High School West said, “Alex is an outstanding student who has put together a very impressive body of work.  He has all the attributes of a scientist: he is inquisitive, smart and willing to do all that it takes to accomplish his goals!”

Each scholar receives a $2,000 prize, and individual schools get $2,000 for each of their recognized students. Forty finalists will be named on Jan. 23 and will compete in mid-March in Washington, D.C., for prizes totaling more than $1.8 million.