Pair of HS East Seniors Earn National Recognition in Regeneron Science Talent Search

L to R: Principal Robert Rose, Jonathan Chung, Sarah Schubel, advisor Maria Zeitlin thumbnail209201
L to R: Principal Robert Rose, Jonathan Chung, Sarah Schubel, advisor Maria Zeitlin

Maria Zeitlin’s science students gathered in Room 136 at High School East at noon on Thursday for the annual revealing of the list of Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars.

The results of the prestigious competition did not disappoint.

Jonathan Chung and Sarah Schubel were recognized among 300 international scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022. The competition is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The 300 scholars and their schools each will be awarded $2,000. 

High School East was one of only three high schools in Suffolk County with multiple honorees.

Chung’s project was entitled, “Microbial Associations Constrain Coral Adaptations to Heat Stress: An Integrative Multi-Dataset Analysis,” which studied impacts of global warming on coral reefs.

“You have high concentrations of greenhouse gasses, which ultimately impact coral reefing —which is when you have the coral that expels symbiont, giving it a white color,” Chung said. “The basis of my project was finding out the key players in the coral microbiome, which ultimately contribute to coral health, and to try to find trends in which thermophilic, or heat-loving, bacteria are present under these increased ocean temperatures.”

Schubel’s project was entitled, “Loss of NMDA Receptor Signaling Results in Excess Proliferation of CNS and Neural Crest-Derived Cells.”

“We mutated a receptor inside the brain of zebrafish,” Schubel said. “And then, based on the physical effects of that, we found that a lot of them relate to what you see in neurodevelopmental diseases and other related diseases. From that, we believe that the mutation of this receptor could be part of the pathway that causes these neurodevelopmental diseases.”

The 300 scholars were selected from 1,804 applications received from 603 high schools across 46 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and eight other countries.

Scholars were chosen based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists as demonstrated through the submission of their original, independent research projects, essays and recommendation. The 300 scholars hail from 185 American and international high schools in 37 states, China, Switzerland and Singapore, including three homeschools.  

The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides students with a national stage to present original research and celebrates the hard work and novel discoveries of young scientists who are bringing a fresh perspective to significant global challenges. This year, research projects cover topics from tracking countries’ progress on sustainable development goals to the impact of states’ individual COVID-19 responses, and from improving the tools used to diagnose Alzheimer’s to analyzing the effects of virtual learning on education.

“Amid an unprecedented and ongoing global health crisis, we are incredibly inspired to see such an extraordinary group of young leaders who are using the power of STEM to solve the world’s most intractable challenges,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science, Publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alum. “The ingenuity and creativity that each one of these scholars possesses has shown just how much intellectual curiosity and passion can thrive, even in difficult times.”

On Jan. 20, 40 honorees will be named Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists. The finalists will then compete for more than $1.8 million in awards during a week-long competition taking place March 10-16.

“We’re over the moon,” Zeitlin said. “The Science Talent Search is considered the nation’s most prestigious scientific competition.”