Feiner (12) presents research in D.C. as Regeneron Science Talent Search finalist


Caroline Goldenberg, Staff Writer

This past Wednesday, Ella Feiner (12), a finalist in The Regeneron Science Talent Search for her work exploring posterior growth in D. rerio with a live cell cycle biosensor, returned from eight days in Washington D.C. spent experiencing judge interviews, presenting her work, exploring the capital, and most memorably, according to Feiner, spending time with the other 39 finalists.

“This was the best week of my entire life,” Feiner said. “It was an incredible opportunity to meet 39 other incredibly engaging, incredibly curious, incredibly smart high school seniors.”

During the week, Feiner presented work that she had developed this summer during her participation in the seven week Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University.

Feiner’s project deals with cancer metastasis, which is the process in which “cells from the primary tumor engage out through the membrane surrounding the tumor into the blood stream,” forming other tumors around the body, Feiner said. This is the leading cause of death in cancer, and Feiner wanted to explore the possibility that metastasizing cells are halting the cell cycle, she said.

Feiner used new tools she developed at the lab to draw connections to a similar process that occurs in typical embryonic development and studied zebra fish development to examine this process, she said.

Feiner found that stopping cells from reproducing pushed them to invade more, she said.

During the week, the finalists explored D.C., participated in judging interviews, attended dinner events where they had the opportunity to meet past finalists, and presented their projects to judges and to the public in the exhibition museum, Feiner said.

“It was incredible to present my original work in a Smithsonian museum…It was so great to interact with all the public; a lot of local kids came, and local teachers.”

Science teacher Dr. Christine Leo, who assisted Feiner in the continuation of her research this year, attended the Public Exhibition Day in D.C. with her husband.

This past Wednesday, the last day of the trip, the finalists visited Capitol Hill and met their representatives and senators and explain about their work, Feiner said. Feiner met Senator Corey Booker and House Representative Josh Gottheimer.

On the last night of the trip, the finalists attended an awards gala, where Feiner was awarded the Glenn Seaborg Award, and gave a speech at the gala in front of 800 people to represent her class of science talent search finalists, Feiner said.

Feiner was invited back to the Capitol to participate in The Legacy Prize, which brings together members from different disciplines, she said. Partnered organizations will attend to select a creative leader from each discipline.

The competition began with a pool of about 2000 entrants. Feiner received an award of $2000, with an additional $2000 given to the school for becoming a semifinalist and another $25,000 in scholarship money for the finals.

Feiner hopes to “help people” with her research, especially in the future, she said, which is something “unique about the research [she] did,” she said.