Audrey O’Brien, of Sea Cliff, is among 300 students nationwide who were recognized as Scholars in the 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search, and is one of 46 from Long Island.
Regeneron is the oldest high school math and science competition in the country, and is sponsored by the Society for Science & the Public. It was formerly sponsored by Intel.
O’Brien, a senior at North Shore High School, was honored for her research involving kidney function, which compares markers in the blood and urine that, when analyzed, indicate functions of the kidney while it undergoes treatment for renal cell carcinoma.
Her research is titled, “The Relationship Between Micro-Albumin Protein To Creatinine Ratio And Serum Creatinine Concentration In Kidney Function: A Novel Approach To Predicting Post-Operative Kidney Function.”
Last summer, O’Brien worked with Dr. Manish Vira, vice chairman of urologic research at the Arthur Smith Institute for Urology,. Vira also lives in Sea Cliff.
“One of our areas of focus in the department is outcomes following surgery for kidney cancer,” Vira said. “This particular study interested Audrey, and we subsequently developed the idea for her project.”
Vira explained that Audrey worked with the institute’s research team to understand the database, assess records and gather the appropriate data. She then independently analyzed the data.
She conducted a study of more than 270 patients varying in gender, age, histology (type of kidney cancer), size of tumor and type of surgery. “I derived a formula,” she said, “and when using the formula, you can plug in [a patient’s] serum creatinine value, which should be able to predict [their] kidney function after surgery.”
She explained that doctors could use this formula to better understand their patients’ pre- and postoperative kidney functions. “Doctors would be able to use this equation to take different approaches to how they might remove a tumor, because there’s different ways you can remove them,” she said. “There’s also different complications with each surgery, so this is another factor that they can take into consideration when they’re choosing the best approach for someone.”
O’Brien has been preparing for Regeneron and a host of other science-based competitions since her freshman year, when she first began learning about the science research process.
“Audrey has been a student in my research class for the last three years,” said Dr. Molly Mordechai, North Shore’s science research teacher. “In that time, we have worked through how to access and read scientific literature, how to properly design and execute an experiment, which statistical analyses can be applied to various types of data, and how to write and present a scientific research paper.”
Mordechai said she helped O’Brien determine graphs and analyses she would use to present her data before she submitted her application for the Regeneron competition. “The application process was kind of like a college application,” O’Brien said. “You had to have two letters of recommendation, 12 essays, send in transcripts and standardized test scores.”
Science appeals to her, she said, because of its potential to discover the unknown. “Although we don’t know the answers to all these different questions, the answers do exist,” she said. “The fact that [North Shore] has a science research program, and we’re able to do something outside of the classroom, is really cool.”
Vira applauded her accomplishments. “I was very excited to hear the news that she was selected, but not surprised,” Vira said. “Audrey was extremely diligent and self-motivated during her time with us. As an academician, I’m fortunate to work with and mentor bright, enthusiastic students like Audrey.”
“Her interdisciplinary passions give her a well-rounded view on all her experiments, and have made her a strong scientist,” Mordechai added. “I’m excited to see how her insight will shape her future.”
Forty finalists will advance to the finals of the Regeneron competition in Washington, D.C., in March, and will compete for more than $1.5 million in prizes. The finalists will be announced on Jan. 23.