Laya Gollamudi and Breanna Brownson at a Science and Engineering fair in pre-social distancing days.
Rye High School juniors Breanna Brownson and Laya Gollamudi recently competed in the New York State Science and Engineering Fair (NYSSEF), where both excelled. The competition was held virtually this year due to the coronavirus crisis, but it didn’t deter Breanna, who took home the top prize, and Laya, who received High Honors for creating a simple homemade green water filter using carbon and silver nanoparticles.
Breanna’s project is one she has been working on the past three years in a research class taught by Ms. Sally Mitchell which analyzes the study of heart disease treatment, specifically, the debilitating scarring that occurs because of it. In scientific terms, her project is “the use of cardioprotective paracrine factors secreted by human germlime pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes to prevent fibroblast activation and scar formation following myocardial infarction.” We asked Breanna for the laymen’s explanation. “In the lab, I am changing stem cells into heart cells that release proteins called paracrine factors. These factors reduce scar tissue formation and encourage the heart to repair itself after a heart attack”. She added, “I chose this project because heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death worldwide.”
For the first round of the competition, she submitted a six-minute video presenting her research. A few days later, Breanna received an email informing her she’d been selected to move on to the lightning-round finals. She presented her research to six judges, followed by a question-and-answer session during a Zoom video call. She not only won the NYSSEF ISEF 2020 Best in Fair (Highest Honors) but was named a Regeneron ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) Finalist, which has long been one of her goals. She qualified to compete at ISEF in Anaheim, California, one of the most prestigious high school science research competitions in the world. Unfortunately, the competition was cancelled because of coronavirus concerns. Breanna is the first Rye High School student to be named an ISEF Finalist.
This summer, Breanna will again intern at Georgetown University Medical School — but on a critical assignment. “My mentor, Dr. Gallicano, recently wrote a grant proposal that was approved to research a possible cure for Covid-19 using synthetic microRNAs, and I will be assisting him with this project.”
- Annette McLoughlin