STONY BROOK, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island high school senior took home third place in this prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search, the only New Yorker to crack the top 10.
Amber Luo, who lives in Stony Brook and attends Ward Melville High School, earned $150,000 for developing software -- called RiboBayes -- that helps researchers better understand the underlying causes of diseases, including Alzheimer's and cancer.
"Because all of of us, we're like, internally screaming," the 18-year-old said. "Because outwards, we're like, is this actually happening?"
RiboBayes identifies key regions known as "ribosome pause sites" along a cell's mRNA transcripts that regulate protein synthesis.
Her tool reveals critical insights into how ribosome pause site expressions is altered by diseases.
By providing greater ability to locate and evaluate the key components of protein synthesis that occur at these ribosome pause sites, RiboBayes enables researchers to gain a more complete view of the mechanisms underlying a wide range of diseases.
"It looks at large volumes of sequencing data and identifies these very important sites within the human genome called ribosome pause sites," she said. "It can pinpoint for researchers, like oh, it's this pathway that is perturbed in cancers, or it's this protein that can be very important towards this cancer progression."
It's mind blowing work, but she's giddy about it.
"I created the whole algorithm and the models that go with it," she said.
Her advisor at school, Dr. Marnie Kula, is also beaming with pride.
"It is really like her sport," she said. "She practices, and she makes sure that whatever she does, she doesn't leave anything on the field."
Luo said she's been accepted to both Harvard and MIT, and while she loves both math and science, this has all been a whirlwind.
"Best week of my life maybe, like the energy," she said. "There's 40 finalists, there's no parents around. We're all like crazy teenagers who love science, you put us in a room, like what do you think is gonna happen?"
"Amazing things" is the apparent answer, and there's only more in the years to come.
Luo isn't resting on her laurels, and she's headed to Syracuse where she'll compete this weekend in the New York State Science Olympiads.
Six other Long Islanders were finalists as well, including 17-year-old Hailee Youn, of Roslyn.
Youn was named the Seaborg Award winner and given the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Regeneron Science Talent Search Class of 2022.
The 40 finalists chose her as the student who most exemplifies their class and the extraordinary attributes of nuclear chemist Glenn T. Seaborg, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1951 and served on the Society's Board of Trustees for 30 years.
The first-place winner was Christine Ye, of Sammamish, Washington, who won $250,000 for her project, which analyzed the gravitational waves emitted from huge collisions between neutron stars and black holes.
By analyzing data gathered at the LIGO gravitational wave observatory, where scientists use data from these waves to measure astronomical objects, she showed that a quickly spinning neutron star could be extra massive, even larger than a typical neutron star, but still smaller than a black hole.
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