Beginning his work at the medical center in the summer of 2011, Wang served primarily as a lab assistant. But this past summer, he was directly involved in experiments. At times, he said, he was put in charge of the lab when Sacktor and van de Nes weren’t around. “It was intimidating,” he said. “But it was good that I was left alone because I got to do everything essentially by myself. With their guidance, it all just came together at the end.”
Van de Nes collected tissue samples of deceased patients who had been affected with Alzheimer’s from Columbia University, as well as samples from patients who had died of natural causes. With Wang’s help, the doctors conducted a Western Blot, a test that uses antibodies to recognize proteins in tissue samples. The team observed the levels of PKMzeta in the samples in two parts of the brain, the hippocampus and the cortex.
The results in the cortex were too random to lead to any conclusions, said Wang. But the results in the hippocampus, whose chief role in the brain is learning and memory, surprised him, as well as the doctors. What they discovered was that PKMzeta levels were higher in Alzheimer’s patients. “To us, this was curious, because it was the direct opposite of what you would expect,” Wang said. “That this protein is so crucial to memory, why are Alzheimer’s patients over-expressing it?”
While the team offered hypotheses as to why this was occurring, Wang said that further testing would need to be done in order for researchers to arrive at any concrete conclusions.
Forty of the 300 semifinalists will be selected as finalists on Jan. 23, earning a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the top award of $100,000.
Wang, the salutatorian of East Meadow High’s class of 2013, is also the president of his class for the fourth consecutive year. He is an A.P. Scholar with Honor, a National Merit Commended Student, an All-State clarinetist, a member of the science and French honor societies and the news editor of the EMHS Jet Gazette.
He has lived in East Meadow since 2004, when he moved there with his father and mother, Jie Lin, from Brooklyn. His father is originally from Beijing, and moved to the U.S. in the late 1980s. Anson is bilingual, fluent in Chinese, and speaks some French as well.