Herricks seniors publish science research

The Island Now

Two seniors in Herricks High School’s Honors Science Research Program have had their respective work prominently acknowledged.

Aveena Desai and David Zhang have both participated in science research since their freshman year. They were mentored by teacher Renee Barcia and currently study under the guidance of teacher Caity Etri.

Aveena is second author of an article that is published in the Meeting Proceedings, an online supplement of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. She co-wrote the piece, titled “Mutational profile analysis and related outcomes in primary and metastatic pancreatic cancer (PC),” with Abhinav Rohatgi, an oncology fellow from NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.

The pair will be presented with the 2021 Conquer Cancer Merit Award on behalf of Conquer Cancer, the American Society for Clinical Oncology Foundation and the 2021 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium Planning Committee.

Research for this project was a two-year endeavor that Aveena conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Alexander Hindenburg, associate division chief at NYU Winthrop (now referred to as NYU Langone Hospital).

Her initial interest in oncology stemmed from her mother’s experience with breast cancer. Aveena was inspired by the way the doctors save lives and decided to pursue studies in this field of medicine. Early on, she spent time in the lab with Dr. Hindenburg, and a large digital data analysis component enabled her to continue working throughout the pandemic.

She is leaning toward a future career in STEM, with hopes of becoming a doctor and incorporating research into her role.

David co-authored an article titled “Harnessing nitric oxide for preventing, limiting and treating the severe pulmonary consequences of COVID-19,” which was published in the Nitric Oxide journal in July. He worked with mentor Dr. Joel Friedman of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Biophysics to write the piece and conduct the research it includes.

After recognizing the therapeutic potential of nitric oxide, David and his mentor embarked on applying it to COVID-19. They were constantly in touch throughout the spring as David analyzed literature and data.

“One of the most devastating clinical manifestations in severe COVID-19 cases is an exaggerated immune response that leads to the downward spiral of a patient’s health,” David said. “This journal directly addresses that by detailing the therapeutic potential of nitric oxide to improve clinical outcomes by mitigating the abnormal immune activity associated with COVID-19’s pathophysiology.”

Prior to the pandemic, David was focusing his science research studies on dual-purpose drug delivery systems incorporating nitric oxide. He received second place in Junior Science and Humanities Symposium’s biology category last year and aspires to become a scientific and clinical researcher and earn a Ph.D.

David Zhang


Aveena Desai

Photos Courtesy of Long Beach Public Schools

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