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  • Writer's pictureIsabella Jabbour

The Science Scholars Program: Edgemont Student Researches Aging

The Science Scholars Program is a two and a half year course offered to students starting in tenth grade and culminating in their senior year. This elective course allows high school students to explore original, cutting-edge scientific research. Students study and work with professional scientists within their field of interest to learn how to think creatively and bring innovative solutions to today’s scientific problems.

The Science Scholars Program also builds confidence in their ability to do scientific research. On an even larger scale, it can also promote student’s interest in pursuing a STEM career. In Edgemont, students must join the program starting in tenth grade, conduct research, create presentations, and maintain a work portfolio. The program will culminate with students presenting their scientific research work to the Edgemont community at the Science Scholars Symposium.

The Science Scholars Program also builds confidence in their ability to do scientific research.

Anika Bansal, Senior

Mentor: Dr. Sofiya Milman, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Aging impacts every disease, and delaying the process of aging would have the most significant effect on the greatest number of conditions. That’s why Anika became very intrigued in investigating the process of aging. In her sophomore year, Anika connected with Dr. Sofiya Milman through a mutual friend. Dr. Milman is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Divisions of Endocrinology and Geriatrics and the Director of Human Longevity Studies at Albert Einstein’s Institute for Aging Research.

Anika’s research concentrated on discerning the genetic mechanisms behind aging. Anika and Dr. Milman analyzed the Ashkenazi Jewish population in New York because the population is relatively similar socioeconomically and had little genetic variation. This population is one that demonstrates extraordinary longevity. They compared the genetic risk and disease prevalence in the subjects and control groups to establish differences and recognize essential areas for further research. Together, they determined that individuals with exceptional life expectancy likely have genetic variants that protect them from developing the age-related diseases common in the general population.

In order to analyze the data, Anika had to learn how to use STATA, a statistical analysis program. She had to gain skills in programming while utilizing the capabilities of technology to perform her complicated analyses. This feature of the research project fascinated Anika because she could determine patterns in her data and ask new questions. “This experience led me to discover new paths for research,” Anika said.

Anika found the research experience to be phenomenal: “It has been incredible to learn and grow through reading complex articles on a specific scientific topic, conducting your own research, proposing new questions, and having casual conversations with experts in the field.” She enjoyed forming a strong relationship with her mentor and lab members, and she felt like an active team member. The Science Scholars Program enabled her to break down complex ideas related to her research and explain these concepts in simple terms to her peers.

Anika elaborated, “Working with my mentor has been one of the best aspects of my research experience. She always took time out of her busy schedule to teach me new concepts and review different directions for the research.” Anika learned a lot from her mentor and described working with Dr. Milman as an incredible experience. Anika was integrated into Dr. Milman’s research team, and got to take part in meetings and journal review sessions. Anika and her mentor Dr. Milman formed an excellent connection with each other during the research process and benefitted from working together.

Participating in original scientific research in high school pushed Anika to think further about her career interests. In her study, she aimed to identify specific genetic variants responsible for healthy aging and how to reproduce these in the general population through drug development. Anika explained, “This scientific inquiry makes me curious about the societal impacts of such ethics-bound research. For example, when the time comes, where will the line between treatment and enhancement be drawn? Who will have access to such drugs?” This research strengthened her interests in investigating genetics and public health and equitable distribution of drugs and treatments.

Anika reflected, “My time in Science Scholars has immensely improved my presentation skills and my ability to understand and explain complex scientific concepts. Finally, I have learned to be patient when you don’t get the results you expected, and how to take advantage of unknown territory by asking questions.”

Luckily, Anika’s research wasn’t disrupted by the pandemic because she had the opportunity to complete her final project the summer before her junior year. As Anika phrased the matter, “The strong connections I formed with my mentor allowed me to continue conducting research remotely throughout the pandemic.”


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