Inspiring Curiosity, Discovery, and Paths to a Brighter Future
Reflections from YPIE Regeneron Science Research Scholars
“Science is a subject of curiosity. Science is part of everything in the universe. Science is why things are the way they are,” says Jordan, a 12th-grade student participating in the YPIE Regeneron Science Research Institute.
Jordan joined YPIE in 9th grade and soon after applied to be part of this in-depth, multi-year science research program, generously supported by Regeneron. “Being part of this program has been one of the best decisions of my life.”
Hazel, another 12th-grade YPIE Regeneron Science Research Scholar, also reflects on this experience. “Because I had the opportunity to be in this program, I realized that science is something that I want to keep in my life as long as I can.”
Jordan and Hazel have been involved in the YPIE Regeneron Science Research Institute throughout high school. After joining the program in the spring of 9th grade, they spent much of their Sophomore year reading detailed research papers on topics of interest, then narrowing their options to one topic they would research in-depth and present their findings at national science competitions.
Jordan was most interested in studying a topic related to his demographic as an African-American male and the challenges of mental health. He started reading detailed research articles about African-American males and depression, including males with life-threatening diseases, those who are incarcerated or feel marginalized in society. His research focused on racial identity and situational anxiety, and how racial identity can affect anxiety in situations due to race.
“The world would be a better place if we cared more about marginalized groups. I see the challenges of mental health distress in my own life with my family and friends. I wanted my research to connect with mental health awareness.”
“This research has allowed me to explore my curiosity to a higher degree and appreciate what goes into scientific discoveries. This program has made me want science to be part of my future at a deeper level. It helped me to realize what I want to do -- to have an effect on the world.”
Hazel centered her research on her desire to help people. In her early research, she was interested in the prevalence of kidney transplants as one of the most common organ transplant surgeries -- one that can be highly successful, but far too few people know about the benefits of donating. After extensive research and outreach to secure an internship, Hazel was invited to participate in research at the Nephrology lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“I was attracted to this research because I want to help people. If I can figure something that would be helpful to millions of people, I wanted to do that.”
Hazel traveled to the Mount Sinai lab after school several days per week and every day on school breaks. “It was a big deal for me and my family for me to be going into the city every day. I had never taken the bus or subway, and didn’t even know how to use a Metro Card.”
At the lab, Hazel was involved in DNA extraction, cell cultures, and collecting samples from the mouse room. Her extremely impressive research expanded to involve identifying the location of proteins that can cause the damage that creates chronic kidney disease.
During her junior and senior years, she finalized her research and presented her findings at national science competitions, including the Westchester Engineering and Science Fair (WESEF) sponsored by Regeneron and the Junior Science & Humanities Symposium.
“It was kind of scary being a teenager in a lab, but it was also interesting. I knew I liked science. I realized that I really enjoy science and this experience opened me to more than I thought I was capable of. It gave me confidence in myself.”
It has been especially meaningful for Hazel to see the impact her being involved in this program has had on her parents. “My parents came here from a third-world country to avoid being in a war. This means a lot to me and my family. My parents are so proud knowing all that I am capable of.”
Jordan and Hazel see science playing an important role in their future. Jordan has applied to several colleges with strong science research departments. “I see myself working in research in psychology that will continue to further my curiosity as an individual. This program has helped me to self reflect on what I value what I can do as an individual to better this world.”
“This program has unleashed passions that I would not have found in the high school curriculum. I realize that I have been given a huge opportunity that not all students get in high school.”
Hazel intends to pursue a teaching degree in childhood education and a minor in biology. “I realize that science is something that I want to keep in my life as long as I can. I always want it to be doing it or to be bringing this passion for science to the next generation.”
Hazel also recognizes the difference this program has made during high school. “At my high school, we don’t even have labs. We just have tables. Science would have just stayed a subject that I liked in high school. Now, it is something that I enjoy and always want to be part of.”
“This experience has opened my mind to possibilities I didn’t know I could have. Being able to compete with students that have had many more opportunities than me. I stayed with this program because I always looked at the end result -- the possibility that my research could save lives.”
Posted June 2020