Michael Hayes

Six Berkshire Advanced Math/Science Research program (AMSR) students have submitted their work to the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS).

Regeneron STS Students 2019

Clockwise from top left: Gohta Aihara '19, Karan Dhiman '19, Avalon Lebenthal '19, Daniel Tian '19, Elliot Winoker '19, Aichen Yao '19.

The STS, formerly known as the Intel STS, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Students submitting their work have gone on to earn the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science. In the past nine years, nine Berkshire students have been named STS scholars, a distinction earned by just 300 students each year among the roughly 1,800 students who submit

“I am very excited about the applications this year which have a broader breath of study reflecting the diversity in the AMSR program and the interests of its participants,” said Dr. April Burch, director of AMSR.

Regeneron Scholars (semifinalists) will be announced on Jan. 9. Finalists will be announced on Jan. 23.

Regeneron STS Logo

Gohta Aihara ’19 prepared an application on his work with Dr. Alessio Accardi from Weill Cornell medical college in New York City. Gohta is passionate about the molecules that control signal transduction and immune cell recognition (phagocytosis) at the cell membrane. It is his dream to develop mechanisms to control these proteins, called scrambalases, in order to promote a natural killing process for cancerous cells. Gohta has already named this process as a “phagotherapeutic."

Karan Dhiman ’19 presented his findings on the technique of plastic pyrolysis. Inspired by the incredible state of pollution in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica, Karan seeks to provide alternatives for the “plastic age”. Pyrolysis is a method by which plastics are heated and the oil that they were made from is extracted back from the plastic. Karan developed a way to study pyrolysis in the AMSR lab and went on to investigate the ability of a catalyst to maximize the amount of oil recovery from pyrolysis. He also went on to connect with Wisynco Corporation, the largest plastic bottle recycling facility in Jamaica on how best to implement this type of technology and the revenue stream it may provide.

Mentored by Dr. Jeffry Stock from Princeton University, Avalon Lebenthal ’19 presented her findings on the ability of the compound peptide 1018 to inhibit biofilm formation and the acne bacteria P. acne. Biofilms are protective mechanisms utilized by bacteria. In the case of acne, biofilms enable the acne to spread and are the source of great frustration for many individuals. Avalon developed a method using the transmission electron microscope on campus to visualize directly the inhibitory effects of peptide 1018 on the biofilm.

Three-year AMSR student Daniel Tian ‘19’s project focused on exploring vulnerabilities in image recognition software crucial for technologies such as driverless cars. He developed an algorithm to introduce noise into images used to help machines learn. It is hoped that this work will make those technologies more robust. This research paper is the culmination of two years of work with Dr. Siwei Lyu (SUNY-Albany) and one year of training with Dr. Nick Webb. Daniel presented this research paper at the British Machine Vision Conference in September and subsequently published the work in the Cornell University Scientific Repository in October. 

Elliot Winoker ’19 has been studying a protein called Nrf2 (“Nerf” 2) for the past two years in the AMSR program. Nrf2 is involved in turning on genes involved in combating oxidative stress cells. Dr. Burch previously discovered that during herpes simplex virus infection (HSV-1) Nrf2 is activated. Elliott’s task was to determine which virus component was involved in stabilizing Nrf2. Elliot’s contribution to our understanding of cellular proteins that are activated during virus infection may reveal new targets for antivirals, but more importantly, it may shed light on how viruses alter cells during non-lethal infection (think HSV-1 cold sores). As it is now thought that HSV-1 infection may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, this work may be important for our future understanding of the connection between viruses like HSV-1 and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Aichen Yao ’19 submitted an application related to her research on bioremediation of microplastics found in sea waters.  Aichen, who is from a coastal city in China, has been intrigued by seawater and blue-green algae and the blooms that happen in her hometown for years.  She explored the bioremediation abilities of seawater algae called Enteromorpha.  In her laboratory studies, she found that Enteromorpha may be able to absorb micro plastics from waters. It is Aichen’s hope that this work will contribute to our understanding of how microorganisms may be used as tools to help clean our environments.