Hewlett seniors are Regeneron semifinalists


Hewlett High School seniors Ella Cohen Kashi and Hiral Chavre have been named semifinalists in the prestigious 2023 Regeneron Science Talent Search.

“Their accomplishments are a testament to their academic dedication to their field,” Hewlett High Principal Alexandra Greenberg said, “and the high quality of mentoring and education we value at Hewlett-Woodmere School District.”

Across the United States, China, Puerto Rico and four other countries, 300 semifinalist “scholars” were named from a field of 1,949 applicants. Each scholar and school will be awarded $2,000. Forty finalists will be chosen on Jan. 24.

The Regeneron program is the nation’s oldest science and math competition for high school seniors, dating back to its start in 1942 as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. It was known as the Intel Science Talent Search from 1998 through 2016, until Regeneron Pharmaceuticals became the sponsor.

Students are chosen based on their academic records and their research skills. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush called the competition the “Super Bowl of science” in remarks to that year’s finalists.

Kashi’s project was titled “Does Nostalgia Affect Adolescent Behavior? An investigation of Nostalgia Among High School Students.” Chavre’s was “NMDA Receptor Mutation and KCC2 Inhibition Induce Changes in Brain Development Associated with Neurodevelopment Diseases.”

Kashi’s research was conducted at the high school, under the guidance of Joseph Van Wie, the school’s director of social science, Kashi’s freshman history teacher and her instructor in Advanced Placement World History when she was a sophomore.

“My role as Ella’s mentor is multifaceted,” Van Wie explained. “I monitored her research progress, assisted with research questions, facilitated the development of her research design, helped implement the experiment and taught Ella how to code, record, analyze and interpret data.”

“I am honored to have worked with Ella and the other research students who prepared papers for the Regeneron competition,” Van Wie added. “It has been wonderful to have Ella named as a semifinalist, and I look forward to her continued growth as a social scientist.”

Chavre conducted her research at Stony Brook University, as an intern in its Simons Summer Research Program. The program welcomes academically talented high school students and gives them the chance to do hands-on research in advanced science.

Hewlett high’s science research coordinator, Terrence Bissoondial, worked with Chavre. “My goal was to make sure she understands what she’s doing,” Bissoondial said. “As well as if the paper is done properly and submitted properly.”

Bissoondial met Chavre three years ago, when she was a freshman. “It’s amazing to see this lady’s dedication,” Bissoondial said. “It doesn’t matter what research it is, Hiral is an exceptional student.”

The internship program did not offer room and board, but Chavre, who lives in Hewlett, didn’t let that stop her. Her parents rented her an Airbnb for the summer.

“It was nice, because I got to experience what a college experience was like, she said. “It was a great way to practice before I go off to college and get that independence.”

The two scholars have yet to choose where they will attend college in the fall. Kashi hopes to major in computer science, and Chavre plans to concentrate on neuroscience.

“Congratulations to the top 300 scholars in this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search,” Maya Ajmera, the president and chief executive of the Society for Science and the publisher of Science News, said in a news release. “The enthusiasm and quality of projects from this year’s participants were just outstanding. Each year, I am tremendously impressed by the ingenuity that the students bring to the competition.”

The 40 finalists will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron March 9-15 in Washington, D.C.