A Promising Future for Gene Weng, Sayville High School’s 2022 Regeneron Semifinalist

January 6, 2022

  • After Sayville High School Tier-One Science-Research student Gene Weng completed his project on cell culture over the summer, he entered his research for consideration in the Regeneron Science Talent Search (formerly known as the Westinghouse/Intel Science Talent Search). On January 6th when the semifinalists were named, Gene Weng was listed among the elite group. Nationwide, there were 300 students selected. This number included forty-nine Long Island students from public and private schools who are now adding this prestigious accolade to their STEM resumes.

    Sayville High School Research advisor Adriana LoCicero and Science Department Chairperson Jennifer Byrnes were both elated but not surprised by Gene Weng’s inclusion as a semifinalist.  His High School career has been nothing short of stellar and they applaud the well-deserved recognition for this remarkable young man.

    To understand what the authentic research entailed, it is best to consult the source—Gene Weng.  “While my project largely studied the growth of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells, an important characteristic of stem cells is their ability to differentiate. Pluripotent ES cells can specialize into all cell types in the body. The potential of stem cells has been harnessed since the first successful bone marrow transplant in 1972. Since then, stem cell research has accelerated, allowing scientists to develop treatments for diseases like leukemia.”

    Gene Weng’s road to success began years prior. “Throughout my high school career, I’ve been fascinated by research as a method to expand our body of knowledge. The summer before my sophomore year, I worked as an intern at inGenious Targeting Laboratory where I met Mr. Jon Barber, the tissue-culture supervisor.”

    During his internship and subsequent research, Gene discovered that, “Many high school students are left without access to cell culture. Currently, cell culture requires the use of a CO2 incubator, which can cost upward of $5000, not including the cost of maintenance.”

    This inspired Gene to find a low-cost solution as an alternative and he developed an idea for his research project. While Gene reconnected with Mr. Jon Barber, a qualified scientist/mentor, for training in cell culture and conducted most of his experiments at iTL under the guidance of Mr. Barber, Gene was responsible for the actual research, which was the result of his own “logical thinking, math skills, and creativity.”

    Determined to counter the high prices of cell culture, Gene “developed a Low-Cost CO2 Vessel (LCCV) for less than $20 to carry out cell culture. Rather than using a CO2 tank, the LCCV uses a chemical reaction to produce CO2 for growing cells within the vessel.”   In addition, the Low-Cost CO2 Vessel (LCCV) Gene developed “can be made of readily available materials. The inexpensive nature of the LCCV would allow more people to carry out cell culture, especially high schoolers. Exposing high school students to hands-on science experiments will likely engage students and promote them to pursue science.” 

     

Class of 2022 Gene Weng

Gene Weng, 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search Semifinalist

Gene Weng, 2022 Regeneron Science Talent Search Semifinalist
HS Assistant Principal Baio congratulates Gene Weng
  • As important and ingenious his work might be, scientific research was only the first part of the process. To earn a semifinalist standing in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Gene had to communicate his findings by completing and submitting an application detailing his research project. The set of specific criteria included Tweeting about the project. Unlike abstracts, this required another skill set: to condense the explanation to 280 characters or less. “Cell culture?” he tweeted. “No, it’s not the way you spend time on your cell phone! It’s the process that scientists with lab coats in high-tech labs use to grow cells. But now you can grow your own cells too! No fancy lab needed! Check out the LCCV (Low-Cost CO2 Vessel) today!  #CellFie!”

    Being succinct and accurate about involved research is a sought-after skill, but Gene showed a flair for stimulating curiosity, a winning combination.  

    The effect of Gene’s research certainly has forward-looking promise. “In the next 20 years, I believe that the development of live tissues and organs from stem cells will have a significant impact on the world. The ability to grow organs in tissue culture and having them available on-demand would be a boon to society, giving patients access to organ transplants through regenerative medicine.”

    But for now, having been named semifinalist is sure to create more research opportunities for this outstanding young man. Congratulations go to Gene Weng for achieving semifinalist status in the Regeneron Competition.

From the Regeneron Science Talent Search Website: 

  • The 300 scholars and their schools will be awarded $2,000 each. The Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars were selected from 1,760 applications received from 611 high schools across 45 states. Scholars were chosen based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists and hail from 193 American and international high schools in 37 states, Puerto Rico and two additional countries.