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Ridgewood Teen Wins $25,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Ridgewood teen Deena Shefter has been awarded a $25,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship. Shefter attended Bergen County Academies (BCA),  a STEM-focused magnet high school in Bergen County , she is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Spanish Honor Society. Her research investigates the connection between multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis . 

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship awards $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships to extraordinary young people, 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work.

Application categories are Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box. Davidson Fellows are honored every year in Washington, D.C. with Congressional meetings and a special reception.

Davidson Fellows named as one of “The 10 Biggest Scholarships in the World” by TheBestColleges.org and one of “7 Prestigious Undergrad Scholarships” in U.S. News & World Report.

see : http://www.davidsongifted.org/Fellows-Scholarship/2018-Davidson-Fellows/Deena-Shefter

Deena Shefter
$25,000 Scholarship Recipient
Age: 17
Ridgewood, NJ
Category: Science/Medicine/Cellular Bio
Project Title: Modeling the Effects of Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide on Pre-Osteoblast Differentiation

My research investigates the connection between multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis. I have always been fascinated with diseases of the nervous system and, while reading through articles about multiple sclerosis (MS), I came across a study about the increased prevalence of osteoporosis in MS patients. Given that these two conditions affect different organ systems, I was intrigued that there could be a correlation between them; so, I began to investigate common points between their pathways. Several articles and Google searches later, I read about vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), which has been used as an MS treatment in animal models. It was the perfect link, and I decided to center my research around exploring the potential of VIP as a treatment for both MS and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects 55% of people aged fifty or older in the US, while millions suffer from MS; thus, a treatment for both diseases is extremely significant.

Biography
My name is Deena Shefter and I am from Ridgewood, New Jersey. Having recently graduated from Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, NJ–I am a rising freshman at Columbia University. I am honored to have been named a Davidson Fellow and to be a member of this extraordinary group of accomplished people. Receiving this award is the best culmination of my research that I could have asked for. To me, Davidson Fellows are people that are able to not only think innovatively, but also make their ideas a reality and push past the boundaries of existing knowledge. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to do independent research under the outstanding mentorship of Mrs. Donna Leonardi so that my own ambitions could become a reality.

My research investigates the connection between multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis. I have always been fascinated with diseases of the nervous system and, while reading through articles about multiple sclerosis (MS), I came across a study about the increased prevalence of osteoporosis in MS patients. Given that these two conditions affect different organ systems, I was intrigued that there could be a correlation between them; so, I began to investigate common points between their pathways. Several articles and Google searches later, I read about vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), which has been used as an MS treatment in animal models. It was the perfect link, and I decided to center my research around exploring the potential of VIP as a treatment for both MS and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects 55% of people aged fifty or older in the US, while millions suffer from MS; thus, a treatment for both diseases is extremely significant.

At one point last year, I encountered an issue with the coherence of my data. I was testing for various markers of differentiation, and I was getting inconsistent results. After considering possible solutions and speaking with my mentor, I realized that I could have analyzed my data in a more complete way. So, using my mentor’s advice as well as my knowledge of calculus, differential equations, programming, I constructed a simplified mathematical model that examined protein expression as an integral. In other words, instead of only calculating protein expression at the fourth day of treatment, I was able to see how much of the protein had accumulated throughout the four days of treatment as well. This was a breakthrough in my project and allowed me to present my findings in a different light.

The reason I became so fascinated with the correlation between MS and osteoporosis is that they are both extremely prevalent and vastly different conditions. I was able to use their correlation and recognize that something therapeutic for MS could also be beneficial to osteoporosis. Through my wet-lab data as well as my mathematical model, I demonstrated the significant potential of VIP as a treatment for both diseases simultaneously. As many current MS treatments are actually harmful to bone maintenance, VIP is a novel alternative to the current anti-inflammatory medications and could improve the lives of people who suffer from both conditions.

For the past four years, I have attended Bergen County Academies (BCA), which is a STEM-focused magnet high school in Bergen County, New Jersey. My course load has included three years of biology, three years of chemistry, and four years of physics. I started doing independent research in BCA’s cell biology lab in my freshman year. The interdisciplinary approach of my high school curriculum has given me the flexibility to combine disciplines in my own project. I am so grateful to have gained these new perspectives and to have seen various aspects of science during high school, and I hope to continue expanding my science education in college. In the fall, I will be attending Columbia University to study Neuroscience.

During school, I am a member of the National Honor Society and the National Spanish Honor Society. I am also involved in Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), and my Creative Thinking team won second place internationally last year. I am the captain of my school’s varsity tennis team, and have been playing since age 7. It’s definitely my favorite sport to both watch and play as well as a favorite pastime. I also have been playing piano competitively for 12 years and have received a number of first place awards at state competitions. I’ve performed at Carnegie Hall and play annually at local nursing homes during the holidays. For my research, I’ve been named a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar as well as a Research Expo Symposium Finalist. My paper has recently been requested for submission to a journal by a professor from the University of Chicago, and it is in the process of publication. I have not fully decided what I want to do in the future, but it will be in the field of neuroscience, whether it be medical school, computational neuroscience, or research.

2 thoughts on “Ridgewood Teen Wins $25,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship

  1. Congrats Deena!

  2. Too bad this story can’t be told about a Ridgewood High School student, rather than just a Ridgewood resident, but such is the state of Fishbein’s RHS…

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