Smithtown High School East senior named Regeneron scholar


A Smithtown High School east senior is among 300 students nationwide named scholars in this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search, the school district announced.

Holy Mary Zaher’s research project, “The Correlation Between Peroxisome Levels and Short-Term Memory Loss in a PINK1-/-Rat Model of Parkinson’s Disease” caught the attention of judges. In her study, she examined the disease at a cellular level.

“Often students are given projects to work on. What makes this extra special is that it was a project she created,” Smithtown High School East’s science research coordinator Maria Zeitlin said. “It was a very clever investigation performed after pondering what was seemingly a simple question in theory, but complicated for a high school student to actually execute, and she did so at such an advanced level.”

Zeitlin explained that Holy Mary utilized rat brain tissue to probe the presence of damage due to reactive oxygen species on brain cells. The student counted over 45,000 points delineating pyramidal neurons in the selected brain regions.

“She is well-deserving of this honor and I am so proud of her,” Zeitlin said. “Her work involved countless hours, including weekends, reading research journals and executing the experiment. She exhibited incredible resilience, as her data was still coming in right up until days before the STS deadline.”

The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 1,949 applications from 627 high schools across 48 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and four other countries.

Scholars were chosen based on their outstanding research, leadership skills, community involvement, commitment to academics, creativity in asking scientific questions and exceptional promise as STEM leaders. This was demonstrated through the submission of their original, independent research projects, essays and recommendations.  

The full list of scholars can be viewed here: Top 300 STS Scholars.

Top photo: Smithtown Central School District Director of Science K-12 Stephanie O’Brien, Maria Zeitlin, Holy Mary Zaher and Smithtown High School East Principal Robert Rose (Courtesy: Smithtown Central School Disrict).