DCAT Awards Scholarships to Student Scientists at the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair
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The Drug, Chemical & Associated Technologies Association (DCAT) has awarded $15,000 in scholarships to select projects of student scientists who participated in the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF), the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The event, which provides a global stage for the best and brightest young scientists and engineers around the world, was held both virtually and in person in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 7–13, 2022. In addition, DCAT awarded $2,500 to support the Society for Science, a non-profit membership organization focused on promoting the understanding and appreciation of science, and the organizers of Regeneron ISEF.

Regeneron ISEF 2022 brought together 1,750 high school students from more than 49 states and 63 countries, regions, and territories across the world to showcase their independent research and compete for an average of $8 million in total prizes.

Jason Bertola, Executive Director, Commercial Development, Small Molecules, Lonza, and Chair of the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee

The DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee facilitated DCAT’s participation as a Special Awards Organization at Regeneron ISEF. DCAT’s participation allows the organization to invest in the bio/pharmaceutical industry’s future by supporting young scholars who represent the geographic regions and areas of study reflected in the global membership of DCAT. DCAT participated as one of more than 40 Special Award Organizations representing government, industry, and education across a variety of scientific disciplines that provide awards from their organizations.

“The Committee is charged with identifying the needs of today’s students and provide them with guidance through a variety of member-supported initiatives.” said Jason Bertola, Executive Director, Commercial Development, Small Molecules, Lonza, and Chair of the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee. “The ISEF is the most important event our committee supports. This is the largest high school science fair with thousands of participants from all over the world.”

Winning Projects
A task force of the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee reviewed students’ abstracts and presentations and selected projects in the areas of cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, and microbiology. The student (s) of those projects received scholarship funding from DCAT to support their future education.

“Three of the projects we selected were related to infectious diseases, with a focus on finding viable solutions to microbial infections using model organisms or understanding the underlying mechanism for antibiotic resistance,” said Jose M. Hanquier, Executive Director, TS/MS, External Manufacturing at Eli Lilly and Company, who was the lead judge of the task force from the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee that reviewed the projects. “The other two projects were related to protein binding kinetics to facilitate protein purification or in cancer research. These projects stood out because of the rigor of the science (irrespective of complexity) demonstrated by the students and the quality of the documentation of their work (e.g., technical report, lab notebook).”

The DCAT scholarship winners and their projects are outlined below. 

Joyce Essuman, a senior at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin, was recognized for her project, Assessment of Alternative Antimicrobial Substances on Staphylococcus epidermidis. Her work focused on anti S. epidermidis properties of clove and thyme extracts as alternative to Pen V.

Anouska Seal, a junior at Paul J. Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida, was recognized for her project, A Novel Approach to Bone Implant Infection Therapeutics Leveraging Proteins Derived From Lactobacillus acidophilus and Modulating Anti-Inflammatory Gene Expression. Her work focused on antimicrobial properties of ammonium sulfate extraction from Lactobacillus acidophilus on Staph. aureus.

Seymour Haque, a senior at Florida Atlantic University High School in Boca Raton, Florida, was recognized for his project, Investigating the Binding Interactions of Small-Molecule Inhibitors to PLKs Using Molecular Dynamics Simulations. He investigated the inhibition of polo-like kinase 1 (PLK-1) by studying the protein-ligand interactions between PLK-1 and four small molecules using molecular docking and molecular dynamic simulations. 

Tae hoon Kim, Joonsung Lee, and Woojin Park, all seniors at the Korea Science Academy of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) in Busan, South Korea, were recognized for their project, Novel Approach to Sensitive Protein Quantification – quantification of His-tagged green fluorescent protein by binding with metal organic framework-coated quartz crystal microbalance. They investigated the known interaction of His-tag with metal ions (protein purification).

Minjae Kim, Jungho Kim, and Sanghyun Park, all seniors at Korea Science Academy of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) in Busan, South Korea, were recognized for their project, Gene Expression Mechanism of Alternative Sigma Factors SigE and SigB Inducing Rifampicin Resistance in Mycobacterium Smegmatis. They studied the antibiotic resistance of tuberculosis in its dormant state.  They analyzed the RNA sequencing data of aa3 cytochrome C, sigB and sigE deletion mutants. They then conducted beta-galactosidase assays and qRT-PCR on these mutants. They found out that respiratory stress caused by aa3 cytochrome C mutation leads to overexpression of sigE, which leads to the overexpression of SigB, which regulates several rifampicin resistance-related genes.

“Despite all the challenges encountered during the pandemic, the quality of the work was truly outstanding. I tremendously enjoyed judging all the projects. I’m impressed by the depth of the research and the caliber of the efforts.” said Maha Mehanna, Ph.D., Associate Director, Portfolio Development at XGen Pharmaceuticals DJB and a member of the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee’s task force, which judged the projects. “I applaud the courage and dedication of all the participants: they braved all the hurdles imposed by the pandemic and were able to identify solid creative solutions to scientific problems producing high quality results.”

About the DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee
The DCAT Science & Scholarship Committee is responsible for identifying the needs of today’s students and educators and provides them with assistance through a variety of projects, grants, and DCAT Member Company-supported initiatives, including the DCAT Annual Golf Outing, which will be held later this month on June 27, 2022, at the TPC Jasna Polana, Princeton, New Jersey. More information about the DCAT Annual Golf Outing, including how to participate as a sponsor or player, can be found here.