More than 300 students from 38 high schools across Long Island competed for $80,000 Thursday at the inaugural NSPC Health Science Competition competition that aims to promote interest in the fields.
Students gathered at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Brookville, where they presented research that addressed health-related issues ranging from the effectiveness of natural pesticides on food consumption to whether or not mobile technology impacts sleep patterns. The winning students had worked on topics including bio-engineering, microbiology, genetics, biology, behavioral science, and biochemistry.
“[The research] takes a lot out of you, but it’s definitely worth it in the end,” said Elmont Memorial High School senior Michael Lawes, who won first place in the microbiology and genetics category. “I’m really tied to this research, and I love that I was able to share my knowledge.”
Lawes’ project on metal and hyperglycemia-induced neuro-toxicity took almost three months to complete. He will be attending Columbia University in the fall and majoring in computer science.
Dr. Kendra Hoepper, an assistant professor in nursing at LIU Post who was one of the judges at the competition, said that she was extremely impressed by the work from such a young group of people. As a practitioner, she said, seeing all of the students’ research was enlightening and educational for her.
“It gave me an opportunity to see what I need to continue to learn,” said Hoepper. “We’re always learning, we always have to learn. I give a lot of credit to [these students’] work ethic.”
Feyi Rufai, a junior from Roslyn High School, was a first place winner in the behavioral science category. Her project explored how different treatments for mental illness affect perception in teenagers. All of her research took less than a year, Rufai said. She hopes to attend Stony Brook University to become a psychiatrist.
“I wanted to share about all the stigma around mental illness and raise awareness,” said Rufai.
Marvia Pressoir, a junior at Elmont Memorial High School, came in second place in microbiology and genetics. Pressoir had been working on Parkinson’s research for the past four years.
“It’s something that’s really interesting to me because my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s,” she said.
Pressoir is continuing her research this summer at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she wants to pursue biomedical engineering and try to stay in the realm of Parkinson’s disease.
The event was mainly sponsored by Neurological Surgery P.C. (NSPC) and the nonprofit Center for Science, Teaching and Learning, which both hope to inspire and encourage kids to continue with the science, technology, engineering, and mathmatics (STEM) fields. Dr. Michael Brisman of Neurological Surgery P.C. felt inspired to kick off the event since there was a lack of support for STEM and health-based learning through competitions.
“These kids have done some amazing work,” said Brisman. “I hope this event inspires enthusiasm. We do want to let people know that health sciences has a lot of exciting opportunities in it, it’s fulfilling. It’s hard work … but if you like what you’re doing, you never work a day in your life.”