Students Address Climate Change At STEM Competition

Winners of this year’s Medical Marvels (left to right): Abigail Rajan, Chloe Ng, Zahara Naqvi, Haley Brodzansky, Sophie Hu. (Photo credit: Feinstein Institutes)

Each year, the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and Northwell Health’s Workforce Readiness department within Corporate Human Resources hosts Medical Marvels; a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) research competition. This year was the 11th running of the competition, and the theme was climate change and global warming. More than 120 high school freshmen and sophomores from Long Island and New York City wrote research papers, designed scientific posters, and presented novel ways to tackle these issues, which are pressing concerns for many young people.

Students from 19 schools were tasked with the hypothetical challenge to better understand the effects of climate change in their school and community and develop new ways to lower and measure greenhouse gas emissions. Their challenge was to recognize how social determinants of health, like food insecurity, could lead to increased health effects of climate change. Some of the ideas proposed include solar panels to electrify school bus fleets and reduce food waste. Teams were required to submit a scientific poster, including a scientific research assessment of the topic, a technological component, outline the community partners they would need to engage and methods to assess the success of their hypothetical solutions. A panel of scientists, clinicians and health care administrators evaluated the posters, papers and presentation using a five-point scale scoring rubric. The applications were judged for qualities such as innovation, clarity, approach, and measurement of success.

“For 11 years, we have tasked Long Island’s brightest young minds to critically think about some of the most complex topics, from human trafficking to gun violence and now climate change. And every year, these students never fail to impress,” said Ines Ruiz vanBoom, assistant vice president of Workforce Readiness at Northwell Health. “We hope the Medical Marvels program will inspire future scientists, engineers, doctors and change-makers to make our communities a better and healthier place to live.”

Earlier this month, the contest’s finalists presented their ideas in person at the Feinstein Institutes. During this in-person presentation event, leaders across Northwell Health shared valuable insight around the issue of climate change, including a keynote address from Teresa Amato, MD, vice president of resource management at Northwell Health. In addition, students attended multiple workshops about the intersection of climate, health and human behavior, corporate social responsibility, community engagement and the mental health effects of climate change. Following this was the announcement of the competition winners. This year was unique in that the winning STEM team was an all-female team from Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School.

The team of 5 included Haley Brodzansky, Sophie Hu, Zahara Naqvi, Chloe Ng, and Abigail Rajan. The students presented a multifaceted approach to convert algae to produce biofuel, and reformulate a corporate social responsibility score index to hold their school accountable for their efforts. Biofuels are fuels produced from plants, or from agricultural, domestic or industrial bio-waste. Biofuels are produced over a much shorter period of time than fossil fuels such as oil, which makes it both a more sustainable and realistic source of energy. The group also partnered with Ecosia, a web browser that uses ad revenue to support the planting of trees.

Types of biofuels and what generation (or cycle) they are classified as. Each generation of biofuel aims to meet a particular global energy demand while also minimizing environmental impact. (Image courtesy of Muhammad Rizwan Javed, et al. / CC BY-SA 4.0)

These young women are a wonderful example of how younger generations are innovating to impact climate change. Certainly they deserve the title of Medical Marvels. “Today’s high school students will one day be leaders in medicine, science, public health, and technology,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes and Karches Family Distinguished Chair in Medical Research. “The Feinstein Institutes at Northwell is proud to host these Medical Marvels and to be inspired by their ideas, innovation and intelligence.”

The team gets to split an $1,800 scholarship for their victory. Students from Sewanhaka High School placed second, while Hicksville High School and Baldwin High School tied for third place. The second-place team will receive a $1,000 scholarship and the third-place teams will each receive a $500 scholarship.

About the Feinstein Institutes:
The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research is the home of the research institutes of Northwell Health, the largest health care provider and private employer in New York State. Encompassing 50 research labs, 3,000 clinical research studies and 5,000 researchers and staff, the Feinstein Institutes raises the standard of medical innovation through its five institutes of behavioral science, bioelectronic medicine, cancer, health system science, and molecular medicine. We make breakthroughs in genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and are the global scientific leader in bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we produce knowledge to cure disease, visit and follow us on LinkedIn.

About Medical Marvels:
An annual STEM competition for ninth and tenth grade high school students, The Medical Marvels program believes in the academic promise of all students, and that by investing in their ideas, the future health and well-being of our community will be served. They also believe that by investing in youth and giving them a sense of place and responsibility for problem solving in the community, a community ensures that it will have bright and capable future leaders for STEM careers. Any New York State-accredited educational institution in Nassau, Suffolk, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, or Westchester is eligible to participate. Medical Marvels was established in 2013 by the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and Northwell Health’s Center for Workforce Readiness.

– Original Press Release provided by Northwell Health

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