COVID-19 Pandemic Forces Lab Closures and Creates Research Obstacles as Regeneron Deadlines Loom Over Seniors

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances for student researchers participating in the upcoming Regeneron Science Talent Search competition.

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Emma Nguyen

Emma Nguyen ’21 conducts her science research for the Regeneron Science Talent Search at home, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus pandemic has created great difficulties for many Bronx Science students, along with people around the world. Whether it is adjusting to changes in their personal lives or navigating the new world of remote instruction, our students are already grappling with the impact of COVID-19. Lab closures present one more obstacle for seniors, who face looming upcoming deadlines for the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search, amidst college application season. And all of this is exacerbated by uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s trajectory. 

Labeled the “Super Bowl” of science by former president George H. W. Bush, the Regeneron Science Talent Search started in 1942 and has become the nation’s oldest and most prestigious research competition. Each year, around ten percent of our seniors submit projects, in order to be considered for the $25,000 grants awarded to the top 40 finalists.

For many students, their projects revolve around their ability to use a laboratory to conduct experiments and to analyze data. Regeneron did not change their November 12th, 2020 deadline in light of the pandemic, so the time that students lost on completing research for their projects has proven to be a difficult conundrum to surmount. 

In the true spirit of our school’s resilience, however, Bronx Science students are adapting to these unforeseen challenges and restructuring their research to make it work. 

COVID-19 basically forced me to scrap my old project and begin anew,” said Ayanava Ganguly ’21. His was one of the most extreme cases of adaptation undertaken by the seniors at our school — starting a new project that would normally take two years to complete, and then completing it all in the span of a few months. “As a result, instead of being an animal model-based, molecular biology project, I am now working on a more mathematical-modeling-based project using exclusively public data and published papers,” said Ganguly. 

Ayanava Ganguly ’21 had to create an entirely new Regeneron Science Talent Search project following his lab closure, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. (Gabriel Lipschutz)

“I was using data that wasn’t my own, and the direction of my project changed,” said Mithila Dey ’21, who faced similar challenges to Ayanava. While Mithila originally intended to design, and then conduct her own experiment, the Coronavirus pandemic forced her to change direction. Her inability to access the resources of a laboratory rendered her unable to individually collect data; instead, she resorted to using public data on websites like “PubMed” in order to support or refute her hypothesis. 

Not all of our students faced such difficult circumstances in completing their research, however; many were able to tweak their projects after dealing with only minor inconveniences. “Prior to COVID-19, I was allowed to analyze my data at a lab, but COVID-19 has proved to be only a minor inconvenience: now, I just have to take it home,” said Emma Nguyen ’21. Because her project did not face a drastic transformation, Emma continues to analyze the behaviors of Asian Elephants in the hope of achieving semi-finalist status at the competition this year. 

The closure of labs may not have altered all Science Research projects, but it has modified much in terms of the way that the research is gathered. “Originally, we were going to have test subjects come into our lab and [we would] measure their heart rates and other physical features, but now with COVID-19, we cannot allow them to come in [for us to] measure these,” said Sophie Poritzky, ’21. Sophie’s project aims to analyze how risk-averse children and young adults are through a gambling simulation created by her lab. 

With sleepless nights dragging on in the buildup to the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition deadline, our research seniors have demonstrated the true academic drive that our school is built upon. From starting a completely new project to having to transport data from the lab to the home, our students have been given many challenges during the Coronavirus pandemic, but also several new opportunities. 

Now having almost completed his Science Research project in astounding time, Ayanava and many other students can be prouder than ever before with their Fall 2020 Regeneron Science Talent Search projects.

COVID-19 basically forced me to scrap my old project and begin anew,” said Ayanava Ganguly ’21.

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