Five Towns students present high-caliber science research at the Materials Research Society meeting in Boston

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A trio of students from a couple of Five Towns high schools presented their research projects at the Materials Research Society meeting at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on Nov. 25 to 30.

Established in 1973, the Materials Research Society is a nonprofit, professional organization for materials researchers, scientists and engineers with roughly 14,000 materials researchers from academia, industry and government. The convention included more than 50 symposiums and was attended by as many as 6,000 researchers from across the globe.

Seniors Yehoshua Auerbach and Zariff Khan from Lawrence High School, and senior Natan Goldschlag from the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School conducted experiments with partners from other Long Island schools under the direction of Dr. Miriam Rafailovich at the Garcia Summer Scholars Program at Stony Brook University. The students continued their work through the fall. Lawrence High research science teacher Rebecca Isseroff also mentored the students.

Goldschlag and his research partners Ethan Winkler, also from HAFTR High, Justin Zhou from Patchogue-Medford High School and Vincent Zhang from Sachem High East, looked into the toxicity of titanium dioxide on human dermal fibroblast cells — dermal fibroblasts are cells within the dermis layer of skin responsible for generating connective tissue and allowing the skin to recover from injury

Titanium dioxide (chemical symbol TiO2) is used in cosmetics, food additives, paints, pharmaceuticals, sunscreen and toothpaste. The students found that exposure to TiO2 nanoparticles could be toxic, which in turn might decrease the growth rate of skin cells and slow down some of the body’s cellular mechanism that would negatively affect healing.

Auerbach and research partner Miguel Hulyalkar from South Side High School in Rockville Centre, produced reusable biosensors that can detect a diverse range of molecules of varied chemical composition and structure.

It is possible that the reusable biosensors could help with the early detection of disease as what is called their “designed specificity to molecular structure” enables the biosensors to differentiate between similarly-sized structures such as the Zika and Dengue viruses. The biosensors are considered reusable as they can be used again even after washing.

Khan and fellow Lawrence High senior John Chen created a synthetic polymer surface that promotes the growth of dental pulp stem cells that are easily taken from discarded extracted teeth and can induce the cells to separate into nerve cells. It’s considered a major step in the ability to grow neuron cells as implants to heal nervous system injuries.