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Senior Nina Shin Named Semifinalist for Regeneron Science Talent Search

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Issue 10, Volume 112

By Aiden Ackerman, Madeline Goodwin 

The Regeneron Science Talent Search has recognized emerging scientists by holding an annual national competition for high school seniors to present their original research in the field of either science or mathematics since 1942. At Stuyvesant, the talent search has become a coveted opportunity for students to showcase their research findings and compete for a monetary prize. This year, senior Nina Shin was selected as the sole semifinalist from Stuyvesant in the competition.

Science teacher Dr. Nedwidek-Moore emphasized how competitive Regeneron has become in recent years compared to her participation in it when she was a student at Stuyvesant. She explained that when she participated in Regeneron, there were significantly more semifinalists from Stuyvesant, and even several finalists. “I think now [that] there are more schools involved, it is more competitive, [and] for a student to excel at this, it needs to be their absolute top priority for at least a year, maybe more,” Moore said.

Shin considers her journey in research to have begun in Nedwidek-Moore’s Medical Human Genetics course during the 2020 spring term. “That class was the first time I really started to read research papers because [Moore] made us write a research proposal about a genetic disease,” Shin said.

In class, Shin focused her research on diabetes mellitus and developing a treatment through molecular intervention. “Her approach was a strategic interventional approach for one of the genes that is messed up in people who have NIDDM (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus),” Moore said.

Despite the high demands of the course, Shin was able to excel and learn from the experience. “I am very particular about the standard that I expect my students to meet, and that was never a problem with her. It just seemed to sort of align with the way she naturally thought about things,” Moore said.

In addition to the Medical Human Genetics class, Shin believes that her participation in the Stuyvesant Research Club has helped her develop a strong foundation for her project in Regeneron. “I learned lab techniques that I actually got to use during my time in the lab,” she said.

Science teacher Jason Econome, who is also the faculty advisor for the Research Club and head of the Regeneron Research Program at Stuyvesant, connects students, such as Shin, with lab internships over the summer. “Cherish every moment of being a Regeneron Research summer intern because it is an amazing world with some of the most wonderfully knowledgeable and caring individuals,” he said.

Shin worked on her Regeneron project in the summer through an internship at the Lin Lab before her senior year. However, Shin had to wait until the beginning of the school year to write her paper so that she could finish collecting data from the end of the summer.

Shin developed the idea for her project, titled “Using Immunophenotyping to Investigate Mumps Virus Infection of Natural Killer Cells,” through collaboration with her mentor, a current graduate student. “My mentor’s project focused on studying mumps virus infection of T cells, and while he was doing that, he also found that natural killer cells, which are another type of immune cell, are also infected. So, that was a project I got to take on and develop,” Shin said. “Though you pretty much don’t hear about it nowadays, there have been an increasing number of mumps virus outbreaks since the 2000s in fully vaccinated adolescents, which I found interesting.”

Because of the competition’s selective nature, Shin had never expected that she would be named a semifinalist. “I got discouraged at the end because I didn’t think that my project was that significant,” she said.

Ultimately, Shin’s efforts were recognized when she was chosen as one of 300 semifinalists nationwide from nearly 1,900 applicants in Regeneron’s highly selective competition. “Semifinalists get a small monetary prize, and they also get to make connections because they have a society for science alumni network,” Shin said.

Moore notes that participating in Regeneron requires independence and dedication. “Someone is not going to hold your hand through this really, it's all you,” Moore said. “You have to want it badly and you have to be willing to go to extreme ethical lengths to really make an accomplishment in fields like biology research or research in general.”

Shin advises that students interested in Regeneron should be willing to take a risk and have faith in themselves. “If you are interested in research, it is a great opportunity, because you get to do your own independent work and you also learn how to write and [use] different lab techniques,” Shin said.