Written by Rich Forestano Thursday, 23 January 2014 00:00
For Sachit Singal, William Chung and Ankoor Talwar, being named Intel Semifinalists for Herricks High School is an honor unto itself. They all say their passion is science, which drove them to study medicine.
Singal has been involved in Herricks’ science research program since 2009, exposing his acumen in chemistry to various labs on Long Island. He worked primarily at Stony Brook University as a Simons Fellow under Dr. Iwao Ojima.
The focus of the lab group was cancer. While Singal feels he has been exposed to cancer research, he wanted to home in on tackling infectious diseases.
“I applied to the lab and had the great fortune of getting in and that’s where it all began,” said Singal.
Singal’s project, dubbed “Chemical and Computational Biology Approach to Identifying the Binding Site of Novel Anti-Tubercular Agents Targeting Mtb-FtsZ,” examines tuberculosis and its different forms. The 18-year-old New Hyde Park resident worked on synthesizing a compound that could combat drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis bacteria.
Singal says it could prevent drugs from becoming ineffective where it “binds micro-bacteria in tuberculosis."
“Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria and this particular bacteria comes in different forms, which respond or do not respond to antibiotics,” Singal stated. “It’s one of the most lethal infectious diseases. The potential for drug-resistant strains to spread around the world is a daunting possibility. The need for new antibiotics is of paramount importance.”
Even if Singal does not advance to the final rounds, he says he's honored to be among the 300 to be considered.
“It serves as a major confidence boost, but asides from that, it feels like a personal responsibility to continue my research during my undergraduate years and beyond,” said Singal
Singal will enroll in Brown University’s eight-year medical school program in the fall. He says he may focus on biology.
Herricks science coordinator Renee Barcia worked with Singal, Chung and Talwar. She taught Singal’s older sister Sanchita and met him as a youngster.
“I could tell there was promise with him,” she said. “I know that Sachit’s passion truly is science and you will be hearing about him in the future.”
Talwar’s project, titled “An in vitro Assessment of Nitric Oxide-Releasing Nanoparticles as a Potential Drug Delivery Vehicle for Treating Hypoxia-Induced Pulmonary Vascular Inflammation,” focused on pulmonary hypertension. He studied at the Feinstein Institute for
Medical Research with collaboration at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine under Dr. Edmund Miller in the Bronx.
Talwar, 17, is aiming to test a nano-particle drug delivery vehicle on treating hypertension. The Roslyn resident used nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and creates less pressure in vascular system.
“I was always interested in cardio-pulmonary research, he said. “My interest first blossomed when I read this first book with my dad called Every Second Counts, which talks about the first heart transplant. I thought it was interesting in the steps that were taken to perform the first one.”
Citing Herricks’ track record of sporting Intel and Siemens contestants (student Sahil Abbi was named a Siemens finalist last year) Talwar said Barcia encouraged him to apply.
“He comes from background of physicians,” Barcia said. “His mom and dad are physicians. Ankoor also has a great interest in biological science. I think that his research that he conducted is something that he feels very strongly about.”
Talwar plans to continue studying cardio-pulmonary disease states. He’s undecided on his post-high school education, but wants to get a Ph.D. in biochemistry or biology.
“I hope to continue this field,” Talwar said. “Research is fascinating.”
Chung, 17 of Roslyn, also focused on nitric oxide. Titled, “The Use of Glassy Matrices to Isolate and Identify the Nitric Oxide Dioxygenase Intermediate,” Chung focused on hemoglobin.
According to Chung, if there’s too much nitric oxide in the bloodstream, it can prove harmful.
“[My teachers] encouraged me to pursue this because my interest matched the project,” Chung said. ‘I studied the reaction that would reduce the nitric oxide in the blood.”
Like Talwar, Chung’s project was also conducted at the Einstein School of Medicine, but under Dr. Joel Friedman. He feels this needs to be featured in the publicly spectrum.
“I may study public health because this, like other issues, are lesser known and people need to be aware,” he said.
Barcia called Chung’s research “exciting.”
“He is a very bright, intelligent young man and involved in music and sports He’s very talented in math as he is in biological sciences,” she said.
All three received a $1,000 award for their research. Additionally, the high school received an award of $1,000 for each semifinalist. The three will find out on Wednesday, Jan. 22 if they advanced to the final stage of the Intel competition, which will be comprised of 40 finalists.