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Two Science Research Students Named Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars; Among Top Science Students in the Country

Science Research Students, Ariella Blackman and Lauren Davidson, were named Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars, and are among the top science students in the country.  The oldest and most prestigious competition for high school students, Regeneron Science Talent Search selects 300 high school students for achievement in science, technology, engineering and math. As Regeneron Scholars, Lauren and Ariella advance to the next level of competition where they compete among 40 other Regeneron Finalists. Ariella also placed 2nd at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair last year. 

Ariella's research, Developing a Model In-Situ Resource Utilization System for Oxygen Sustaining Life Support and Launch Cost Reduction for Mars, included modeling cost-effective, sustainable life-support systems for human spaceflight to Mars. She has grown plants in various substrate ratios including simulated Martian regolith, potting soil, and biochar, measured various growth parameters, and developed an original mathematical model to calculate oxygen production and the amount of resources needed to support life.

Lauren’s research, The Effect of Copper (II) Sulfate Pentahydrate Concentration on Locomotor Activity and Lifespan of Alzheimer's Model Drosophila melanogaster, explores how supplementing copper impacts Alzheimer's Disease. Her study examined the effect of copper on fruit flies to determine its impact on Alzheimer's disease. 

Read the abstracts of their research:

Ariella Blackman

Research Title: Developing a Model In-Situ Resource Utilization System for Oxygen Sustaining Life Support and Launch Cost Reduction for Mars

Abstract: Martian agriculture may be the most cost-effective means to develop a sustainable human life support system on Mars by employing in-situ resource utilization to convert atmospheric CO2 into O2. However, launching the necessary Earth soil is prohibitively expensive, and Eichler et al. (2021) failed to germinate seeds in MGS-1, one of the most accurate Martian regolith simulants available. This study determined whether Phaseolus acutifolius could grow in ratios of MGS-1 and Earth-based potting soil and which substrate resulted in maximum O2 while reducing Earth-based launch mass. Plants were grown in incremental substrate ratios, and an original mathematical model was created to estimate the number of plants required to produce enough O2 to support human life while minimizing total Earth-based soil mass. Plants germinated in ratios with 0%, 25%, and 50% MGS-1. Results suggested that MGS-1 limited plant growth due to its water-retention properties. A significant difference existed between wet biomasses of plants grown in 50% MGS-1 and 0% MGS-1 (p<.05), with no such significant difference for the dry biomasses (p>.05). Plants in 50% MGS-1 allocated more resources towards obtaining water with significantly more below-ground biomass than the control (p<.05). Model calculations demonstrated a trend from 0% to 25% MGS-1: estimated number of required plants increased (867 to 1003 plants), but the total amount of Earth-based soil decreased (101kg to 87.2kg). This trend potentially holds between 25% and 50% MGS-1 but is unclear because of large amounts of below-ground biomass. Results imply that the ideal regolith content of a growth substrate is between 50-75% MGS-1 since the cost benefits of decreasing the Earth-based soil used per plant outweigh the need for more plants due to decreased O2 production.

Lauren Davidson

Research Title: The Effect of Copper (II) Sulfate Pentahydrate Concentration on Locomotor Activity and Lifespan of Alzheimer's Model Drosophila melanogaster

Abstract: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease believed to be caused by abnormal breakdown of proteins creating toxic Aβ plaques. Copper is naturally occurring in humans and is required for maintaining the health of neurons. Two conflicting theories on copper interaction with AD exist: 1. Aβ plaques absorb Cu2+ ions, creating a deficiency in neurons. 2. Excess Cu+2 in the brain increases Aβ levels causing an increase in neurodegeneration. This study researched the effects of Cu2+ concentration on transgenic Drosophila melanogaster expressing the human “Arctic” AβPP mutation to examine if supplementation could decrease AD-associated effects. A dose-response study was conducted where 0, 1, 10, 100, 500, 1000µ๐‘€ copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate concentrations were added to Instant Drosophila Medium Blue from Carolina Biological. Male and female flies of each strain and concentration were tested separately. Because AD has age-dependent deterioration in movement coordination, a negative geotaxis assay was conducted on days 7,8,9 of life. Probability of survival was documented using Kaplan-Meier curves. Results showed that overall, Arctic flies performed significantly worse (p<.01) than the wildtype or Gal4 at all concentrations except 100µ๐‘€ where the Arctic flies performed significantly better (p<.01). However, as Cu+2 concentration increased, both Arctic male and female flies performed significantly better than the 0µ๐‘€ (p<.05), whereas wildtype and Gal4 performance generally deteriorated. All strains also had significantly (P<.05) higher survival probability at 10µ๐‘€ than 0µ๐‘€. Arctic males and females had a normalization of lifespan at 10µ๐‘€ with no significant difference existing between 10µ๐‘€ Arctic and 0µ๐‘€ wildtype flies. Only Arctic flies survived the 100µ๐‘€ conditions. Implications include that copper supplementation may have an ameliorating effect on behavioral function and lifespan in AD, possibly more so in females than males.

Students enter the Regeneron Science Talent Search by submitting original scientific research.  Scholars are chosen based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists. Lauren and Ariella conducted their research over the past three years as part of the high school’s Science Research Program. To be considered for the Regeneron competition, students conduct an original research project, where data is collected and analyzed. In addition, students complete and submit a comprehensive application which explains the reasoning behind their study, academic background and interest in science. 

The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides students 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. The Science Talent Search is a way to help reward and celebrate the best and brightest young minds and encourage them to pursue careers in STEM as a way to positively impact the world.