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John Jay Students’ Science Research Has Strong Implications

Dan Fulop, left, and Kevin Pawlak, seniors at John Jay High, are semi-finalists in the the Intel Science Talent Search.
Dan Fulop, left, and Kevin Pawlak, seniors at John Jay High, are semi-finalists in the the Intel Science Talent Search. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Katonah-Lewisboro School District

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – One John Jay High School student may have found a way to cure cirrhosis. Another ,ight  have developed a way to destroy bacteria without the use of antibiotics.

At least that’s what their preliminary research indicates.

As a result of that research, John Jay seniors Dan Fulop and Kevin Pawlak have been chosen from 1,700 students nationwide as two of the 300 semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) – one of the country’s most prestigious pre-college science competitions.

Previously known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, the competition has been in existence since 1942. Approximately 21,000 finalists and semi-finalists have received more than $13.8 million in awards.

Fulop and Pawlak are the first JJHS Intel semi-finalists in seven years.

Fulop’s work is related to RNA (ribonucleic acid) – a large group of molecules that plays a vital role in the coding, regulation and expression of genes. Utilizing and activating small RNA’s regulatory system within the body, Fulop succeeded in transforming a cirrhotic liver stem cell into a healthy cell, which could eventually lead to the development of a drug that could halt cirrhosis.

Since his junior year, Fulop has been meeting with Drs. Charles and Leslie Rogler at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx. During his junior year, he commuted every week from mid-June to September, working nine to 10 hours a day, five to six days a week.

“I developed [the research] with [the Roglers] based on my interest, and then worked on an experimental design,” Fulop said.  He hopes to attend medical school and aspires to eventually become involved with cancer research.

Pawlak chose to explore unconventional anti-bacterial therapies. Because some bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, Pawlak’s quest was to break down the bacteria using an alternate method. Pawlak’s research discovered a method through which the utilization of less antibiotics actually increased bacterial death.

He developed his project during his sophomore and junior years. Research was conducted at Texas Technical University under the tutelage of mentor, Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh. Pawlak spent more than seven weeks in Texas and expenses were covered through the Clark Scholars Program at Texas Tech. He plans to study history and biological science and to become a surgeon or scientific researcher after completing medical school.

Each of the 300 semifinalists received a $1,000 award from the Intel Foundation with an additional $1,000 going to his or her school.

From that select pool, 40 finalists will be invited to Washington, D.C. in March to participate in final judging, display their work in public, meet with notable scientists, and compete for a top award of $100,000.

John Jay High School teachers Jodi Riordan, Ann Marie Lipinsky, and Dr. Linda Burke run the school’s research program and played an integral part in the success of the students.

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