High school senior Michael Catalano has been named a Scholar in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search (formerly the Intel Science Talent Search.) He is among 300 students nationwide to earn this honor (previously called semifinalist in the Intel STS) and is among only 58 Scholars on Long Island. In addition to earning a $2,000 cash prize and advancing to the next level of competition, he has also won $2,000 for the high school. Finalists will be announced on Jan. 14, 2017.

Michael submitted a project called “The Use of Double Stranded RNA for Silencing Genes in Caenorhabditis elegans: Decoding the Epigenetic Mechanisms of Autism.” He began his research by looking at a gene silencing technique known as RNA interference using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (a type of worm). He studied the life cycle of C. elegans in the classroom lab, learning the techniques of cultivation, picking, chunking and food preparation, and used feeding vectors to attempt genetic changes in the worms. He continued his research over the summer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Christopher Hammell. The goal is that one day, RNAi can be used to silence genes that are harmful to humans and therefore prevent cancers and autism.

Locust Valley Science Research Coordinator Christopher Hoppner said Michael worked extremely hard, putting in countless hours of work and revisions to reach this point. “The dedication that it takes to reach this level is enormous and I am very proud of Michael, as I am of all the Locust Valley seniors who submitted papers to Regeneron this year,” he said.

According to the company’s website, the Regeneron Science Talent Search recognizes and empowers the most promising young scientists in the U.S. who are creating the ideas and solutions that solve our most urgent challenges.

Congratulations to Michael and good luck at the next level of competition!