EHS students excel in science research

Edgemont High School senior Angie Jang discusses her research Feb. 4 during the Science Scholars Symposium at the high school.

Edgemont High School continues to churn out some of the top performing students in the state, an achievement further evidenced by senior Angie Jang’s trip to the semifinals of the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Jang, 17, was named in early January as one of 300 students to qualify in the semifinal round of the competition — a competition that began with 1,964 students nationwide. In addition, Jang was the only Edgemont student out of the 20 who applied to reach the semifinal round.

In late January, Regeneron announced its 40 finalists and although Jang was not among them, her teachers and administrators have reason to be proud of her work and the work of her classmates in Edgemont High School’s Science Scholars program. In addition, Jang is happy with how far she made it in the competition.

“Just being in the top 300, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity,” said Jang. “It was just crazy when I heard back. Other than that I was just really happy to be a part of this competition — just the rigor everyone shows and the talent that’s so pervasive all across the United States.” 

Jang’s submission to the competition was her research on how cancer cell metastasis — or the spread of cancer cells — relates to cell cycle proliferation.

In other words, Jang studied how stopping a cancer cell from splitting and going through its normal cell cycle relates to the spread of cancer.

Jang explained many doctors who treat cancer induce cell cycle arrest — or stopping the cell’s natural cycle — to stop the cancer from spreading.

She wanted to research if that is an effective way to stop metastasis.

Jang used zebra fish to complete her research because cells in zebra fish act similarly to the spread of cancer cells in the human body.

According to Jang’s research, which she completed over the summer at Stony Brook University, stopping a cancer cell from completing its normal cycle may actually aid in metastasis.

She compared it to humans riding an elevator.

Jang said if a person is allowed to ride an elevator to its original destination, the rider goes where he or she is supposed to go.

However, if someone were to stop the elevator before that person reached his or her destination, that person could end up in an area or on a floor that is restricted.

Similarly, Jang said, inducing cell cycle arrest could cause a cancer cell to end up in a part of the body in which it should not be.

Jang presented her research at Edgemont High School Feb. 4 as part of the Science Scholars Symposium.

The evening featured a poster session during which attendees could walk up to members of the Science Scholars program and get a taste of their latest research. Later in the evening, the scholars each gave PowerPoint presentations on their work.

Mark Nowak, the Science Scholars director, said each day he gains a lot from interacting with his students.

“Every single day I meet with these students I become more and more impressed,” said Nowak. “They keep me on my toes.”

Nowak said at times it’s a challenge for him to both keep up with the subjects his students are studying and continue to push them further in those subjects.

“I’ve learned a lot from them,” he said, adding it’s important to make sure his students understand — especially when they are presenting their work at a competition — the importance of effectively communicating science.

“I always tell them, ‘You don’t know who the judges are and you don’t know what their background is,’” said Nowak. “You might have someone who could be an M.D./Ph.D. in that field and you don’t know it and you might have someone who has no concept of the subject at all. So tell a story, tell a good story.”

Edgemont School District Superintendent Victoria Kniewel said the research Jang and her classmates are doing as part of the Science Scholars program is a part of the district’s goal to have its students participate in “authentic” learning experiences.

She noted that in some labs, students are doing projects in which someone has already discovered the answer or end result.

In the case of the Science Scholars program, students are researching questions that still exist today for many science professionals.

According to Jang, that authentic research is one of the things that encourages her love of science.

“The important implications to even the smallest things you do is just so extraordinary,” said Jang. “The research that I do in my lab — even for just the summer — could affect so many lives and discover so many other truths.”

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