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Inaugural STEM Symposium Features Cutting-Edge Research by Yonkers High School Students

The Cooling Effects of Vertical Greenery, the Genetics of Melanoma and Deep Brain Stimulation to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease were just three science research posters presented by Regeneron STEM Scholars at the inaugural Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE)/Regeneron STEM Symposium on May 29.

The evening program was kicked off by YPIE Regeneron STEM Scholars Manager, Jake Schofield who thanked Regeneron, a leading biotechnology company based in Tarrytown, for their generous sponsorship and explained the unique science research program, including the dedication it takes for students to participate in such a demanding program after school in addition to their other responsibilities.  YPIE Executive Director, Wendy Nadel acknowledged the posters around the room and marveled at the students’ progress since they were accepted into the prestigious program last year.

“You have the opportunity to create new knowledge and that’s what you’re doing here tonight,” Sam Wallis, YPIE Chief Program Officer reminded students.

Last Spring, with generous support from Regeneron, YPIE began the YPIE Regeneron STEM Institute,  a four-year science research initiative enabling academically ambitious, low income students to participate in original science research, similar to their peers in more affluent school districts.

Working alongside mentors from STEM fields, Regeneron STEM Scholars are conducting research on a topic of their choice with the ultimate goal being participation in regional and national science competitions.

Potoula Gjidija, Regeneron’s Associate Director of Corporate Citizenship, called the inaugural Symposium “a celebration of the YPIE/Regeneron shared mission to inspire young minds and advance the future of science.” Regeneron is dedicated to inventing life-transforming medicines by investing in scientific research and technology. Before introducing the two featured student speakers, Gjidija explained the dearth of science research opportunities in the Yonkers Public Schools and the hope that the YPIE program can be a model for other low-income communities in the region and throughout the country.

Hazel Montes, a tenth grader from Roosevelt High School, admitted she was nervous about the workload when accepted into the YPIE Regeneron STEM Institute. But she’s grateful for all she’s learned, not only about her research topic, Kidney Transplants and Chimerism, but also about how to organize her time. With her parents looking on proudly, Montes shared her hopes of becoming a medical researcher in a children’s hospital one day.

Perpetua Uduba, an 11th grader from Yonkers High School, originally was worried that there were too many topics already being explored. But after extensive research, she realized how much there still is to be done. Uduba will be testing how to cool urban areas with vertical greenery walls, an especially relevant topic given the rising temperatures and the city where she lives.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Dr. Richard Torres, an inspiring Senior Staff Scientist at Regeneron who shared his personal journey growing up with immigrant parents, attending an  under-resourced high school in the Bronx, and working multiple jobs throughout college to support himself. He credits his enduring love of science, his hard work and his caring parents for his success today. “No road is blocked; keep your grades up and you can do whatever you want to do,” Torres encouraged before taking questions from eager Scholars and their parents.

The Symposium concluded with guests circulating around the room meeting all fourteen Regeneron STEM Scholars and learning about their research to date and how they will delve deeper into their science research in the year to come.

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