left to right: Yonatan David, Joshua Solomowitz, Megan Hansen, Dr. Frank Biro, Kayla Neville, John Yang, Melissa Wing, Vita Jaspan
During summer 2011, nine Long Island students from six high schools interned at world-renowned research facilities which study environmental links to breast cancer. The students were sponsored by the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition (GNBCC) and the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC) through their “Students and Scientists Breast Cancer/Environment Research Scholarship Program”. This program, now in its seventh year, was founded by the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition in 2005. The goal for both GNBCC and HBCAC is to raise awareness of breast cancer primary prevention and the research that is being conducted on environmental triggers of the disease.
Seven of the nine student interns traveled with GNBCC and HBCAC to the annual Breast Cancer Environmental Research Program Conference (BCERP) which convened November 17-18 in Cincinnati. At the conference the following students received recognition for displaying a poster of their research experience: Joshua Solomowitz (Huntington H.S.), Yonatan David (North Shore Hebrew Academy H.S.), Kayla Neville (Commack H.S.), Jeong Yun (John) Yang (Great Neck South H.S.), Vita Jaspan (Great Neck South H.S.), Melissa Wing (Northport H.S.) and Megan Hansen (Huntington H.S.).
Vita Jaspan and Melissa Wing, who interned at the Soto/Sonnenschein Lab, assisted research on endocrine disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), found in certain plastics, coatings of sales receipts and certain dental resin. These chemicals have been linked to breast cancer and other chronic diseases. Megan Hansen and Catherine Wang (Great Neck North H.S.), who interned at the Silent Spring Institute, assisted research on the health and environmental effects of optical brighteners found in laundry detergents and certain cosmetics. Joshua Solomowitz, Yonatan David and Harrison Ferlauto (Commack H.S.), who interned at the Russo Lab at Fox Chase Cancer Center, assisted research on both the beneficial and negative effects of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and the pregnancy hormone, HCG, in relation to breast cancer.
John Yang and Kayla Neville remarkably won the BCERP Conference’s juried poster award titled, “Best Basic Research Poster”. What made this award especially exceptional was that the poster presented by the two high school students was chosen over those of prominent national researchers and post doctorate fellows. Their poster titled "Towards Graphene-Based Imaging and Drug-Delivery Agents for Breast Cancer: Cytotoxicity of Graphene Oxide Nanoribbons in Human Breast Cancer Cell Lines" addresses the field of nanotechnology and its potential effect on human health. John and Kayla interned at Professor Balaji Sitharaman’s Laboratory at the Biomedical Engineering Department at Stony Brook University.
Nanotechnology is an emerging field being used in everything from common household products such as cosmetics and articles of clothing to pharmaceuticals and medical imaging. Professor Balaji Sitharaman has been researching the potential cytotoxicity of nanoribbons on human breast cancer cell lines MCF-7 and SkBr in his laboratory for the past few years. This study will determine if nanotechnology used in pharmaceuticals and as medical imaging contrast agents is toxic at the cellular level and safe for public use.
Here is what some of the students have to say about the program: “The Students & Scientists program is a very enriching program that gives young scholars rare opportunities to work in research institutions. It not only gave me the best summer experience I've ever had, but also justified and further motivated my passion to conduct research for the betterment of our society.” said John Yang.
“The Students & Scientists Program offered me an incredible opportunity to learn about endocrine disrupting chemicals in our environment and their links to breast cancer. I got to spend two weeks at a leading laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine and learned more than I thought was possible in this short amount of time. It was a life changing experience participating in cutting edge laboratory research.” said Vita Jaspan.
Since 2005, GNBCC has sponsored 14 students. If you know of a student in Great Neck who may be interested in our program, please have them contact the science chairperson at their schools. Thank you to the following Great Neck High Schools who we have been working with during the past seven years: Great Neck South H.S., Great Neck North H.S. and the North Shore Hebrew Academy H.S.
To view the work of all of our amazing GNBCC scholarship students through their essays, click here.