Six years of diligent research work coupled with steadfast support and encouragement from faculty and students at the College of Staten Island (CSI) has landed a local Staten Island Tech High School student a spot at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) competition next month in San Jose, CA.

The project, entitled “Inhibiting Brain Tumor Progression Using Targeted Curcumin,” was performed by a student from Staten Island Tech High School performing research in the laboratory of Dr. Probal Banerjee, Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Neuroscience at CSI.

“Enthusiastic judges from various backgrounds have placed this project at the top of the “Biochemistry and Molecular Biology” category at the New York Science and Engineering Fair (NYSEF), which caused this project to move to competitions at a higher level,” reported Dr. Banerjee.

Staten Island Tech student, Sneha Banerjee, performed organic synthesis in CSI’s laboratories and then used targeted derivatives of the food component curcumin to perform elaborate studies on cancer cells. Both Drs. Qiao-Sheng Hu and Krishnaswami Raja of the College’s Chemistry Department, along with CSI doctoral students Phyllis Langone and Sukanta Dolai, contributed heavily to this project by assisting in further moving the research into the area of in vivo studies.

These studies in tumor-implanted mice showed decimation of brain tumors and rescue of sick mice by antibody-targeted curcumin, a spice component that preferentially kills cancer cells but protects normal cells. Since high school students cannot be involved directly in animal studies, Sneha Banerjee actively participated in imaging of the tumors, all organic syntheses, spectroscopic analyses, cell culture studies, microscopy, data interpretation and literature analysis.

Highlighting the role of the CSI doctoral students in this accomplishment, Dr. Raja added that “Sukanta was instrumental in supervising and executing the synthesis [with Sneha]” adding, “he is the backbone of my research group.”

“This is an impressive achievement for our institution and for Sneha Banerjee. CSI continues to seek new ways to promote and support more of these kinds of opportunities for high schools students,” said E.K. Park, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at CSI.

Doctoral student Phyllis Langone (left) and Sneha Banerjee (right) are shown at a biological safety cabinet station.