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North Shore senior makes Regeneron Science Talent Search finals

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North Shore High School senior Kyra McCreery has been chosen as a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search. She will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., from March 5 to 11, where she will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron, according to the competition's website.

Each year, 300 Regeneron scholars are selected from nearly 2,000 applicants nationwide. Each semifinalist, which also included NSHS senior Keaton Danseglio, earns a $2,000 award, along with $2,000 for their respective schools.

McCreery, 17, has a passion for environmental science and wanted to focus her project on exploring the impact of climate change on the trajectory and nature of North Atlantic hurricanes. She spent months looking at a dataset of 1,857 tropical storms occurring in North America and the Caribbean, dating from 1851 to 2016 with the guidance of her mentor Dr. Upmanu Lall, chair of Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering.

Through her research, McCreery noticed there had been a meaningful slowdown in the speed in which hurricanes move over land once transitioning from the ocean. This can have serious repercussions, she said, because more precipitation falls from lingering storms, thus opening up the possibility of increased environmental damage.

Although she couldn’t isolate a definitive cause for this phenomena, McCreery said the chief hypothesis is that it is due to the slowing down of air circulating in the mid-Atlantic due to human-imposed climate change.

Results like McCreery’s had never been noticed before. NSHS science research teacher Dr. Molly Mordechai said she was not at all surprised by the depth and importance of her student’s research. “Kyra is absolutely brilliant,” she said. “She’s got intelligence that surpasses most of the adults that I know.”

“I think it’s definitely a meaningful accomplishment,” McCreery said of her success in the contest. “It means a lot to be able to be recognized for this work.”