Junior Madeline Fagen attends Intel ISEF

Maddie Lane, Staff Writer

Science Research student Madeline Fagen  attended the Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from May 9 to 15.  This highly prestigious competition was an opportunity for Fagen to present her research on schizophrenia on the international stage.

Fagen spent more than a year studying the autoimmune hypothesis of schizophrenia at the Feinstein Institute in Manhasset.  Although she was the youngest and least experienced intern at the facility, she devoted herself to her studies and made sure to develop a clear understanding of the topic.

“I read all the textbooks and articles I could get my hands on to familiarize myself with the area in which I was working,” Fagen said.

By reviewing previous research, she learned that certain antibodies that attach to receptors in the brain are in the blood of schizophrenic patients.  To play a role in disease, the autoantibodies would have to be found in the brain.  Fagen decided to study the presence of these autoantibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid surrounding the brain, of patients.

After finding that these autoantibodies existed in very little concentrations, she chose to study the usage of different genes in the creation of antibodies in schizophrenic patients.  She discovered that schizophrenic patients used genes very differently than healthy patients, specifically since they overuse a gene family that is over-expressed in autoimmune diseases like lupus and arthritis.  Through these results, her research drew a novel link between schizophrenia and autoimmunity.

Fagen attended LISEF (Long Island Science and Engineering Fair) earlier in the year.  She received an honorable mention at this competition, but she wanted to do better.  After editing her board and perfecting her presentation, Fagen headed to NYSSEF (New York State Science and Engineering Fair), where she received second place in her category.  After competing in the lightening round, she qualified for ISEF.

“I think it’s incredible that we have a student like Madeline, that as a junior already qualified for ISEF, pushing her further ahead than most of our students in research at this age,” said Science Research teacher Mr. John Schineller.

Fagen enjoyed her week at ISEF.  She met students from 70 different countries and got a chance to hear about their research.  She also listened to presentations from the President and CEO of Society for Science and the Public, Intel’s futurist, and a man who sold two companies to Google before he turned 20.

At the end of the week, there was a Grand Awards Ceremony.  To her surprise, Fagen received 4th place in her category.

“There were so many amazing projects so I was really not expecting to win anything.  Furthermore, I was satisfied with just being invited to the competition,” Fagen said.  “Winning something was more than I could have ever asked for.”

Fagen worked hard to qualify for this reputable science research competition, and she was honored to receive an award.  She also notes that she could not have done it without the help of certain individuals.

“I am so thankful for my mentor at Feinstein for her supervision and support,” said Fagen.  “I am additionally thankful for our school’s remarkable research program, specifically for the guidance of Mr. Schineller and Ms. Ezratty, for allowing me to attend ISEF.”