Real-life impacts

It’s never too early to get into neuroscience. Or, at least, that’s what Monticello High School senior Rachel Field thinks.

 

It’s never too early to get into neuroscience. Or, at least, that’s what Monticello High School senior Rachel Field thinks.

Rachel has been named a 2021 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar for her potentially groundbreaking research into ALS — one of only 300 chosen out of more than 1,700 applicants. Along with the award, both Rachel and MHS each received a prize of $2,000.

Rachel Field looks at her research on her laptop.

Rachel plans to put the money toward her first semester of college and Jeremy Dove, the director of Monticello’s Health and Medical Sciences Academy, said the school will put its prize money toward the academy.

“When we introduced the Health and Medical Science Academy, we knew that it could be a powerful experience for students,” Dove said. “It paves the way for future careers and experiences that will have long-lasting impacts on our community locally and also globally.”

Seeing some close family and friends experience neurological disorders is what led her to neurobiology, Rachel said.

“I really thought the biology of ALS was interesting,” she said. “There’s a whole bunch of different proposed causes that likely act simultaneously to cause ALS symptoms and I zeroed in on that.”

Rachel’s research focuses on a cell death process known as excitotoxicity that sometimes accompanies ALS and can worsen symptoms. Her project looks at cells’ interaction with different proteins in the body that can prevent excitotoxicity and lessen ALS symptoms.

And Rachel’s research has the potential for real-life impacts.

“If the pathway I’m proposing in my study is proven correct, then it could potentially provide a new target for mitigating ALS symptoms and can prolong an ALS patient’s life,” she said.

Rachel’s research has since been sent to a judging panel who determine the top 40 finalists from the 300 scholars, which will be announced on January 21. But Rachel said she is just pleased to be chosen as a scholar among her peers.

“To hear the news that I was joining this community of amazing scientists who have so much history and accomplishments under their belts, I was shocked and utterly ecstatic,” she said.

For more on this story, see NBC29’s and CBS19’s coverage.