YU High School for Girls Team Takes Fourth in Urban Barcode Project Finals

A team of four students from the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central) triumphed over 40 other groups to compete in the final round of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s NYC Urban Barcode Project, in which research teams use DNA technology to explore biodiversity in New York City. Vying for the $20,000 grand prize, the Central team of Faigie Feiner, Michal Leibowitz, Miriam Rosen and Mindy Schwartz placed fourth, winning honorable mention and a crimson ribbon in the finals at the Museum of Natural History on June 5.

Central students Faigie Feiner, Mindy Schwarz, Michal Leibowitz and Miriam Rosen

Led by faculty mentor Shulamith Biderman and assisted by Ruth Fried, head of Central’s Science Institute, and Jason Williams, course instructor in Research Methodology, the team used DNA barcoding to identify allergy-causing plants. The research project, called “No More Itching and No More Ditching,” focused on analyzing the species of plants surrounding Central and two other local schools. With close to 50 percent of school children worldwide sensitive to one or more common allergens, the goal of the project was to accurately identify the unknown plant species and determine whether those plants caused allergies, by comparing them to previously published lists of allergen-inducing plants species. The team’s results showed that “school-aged children are being exposed to health-threatening allergens on almost a daily basis.”

A second group of Central students—Evelyn Abramov, Leah Nouriyelian, Chayah Rosenblum and Jessica Weiselberg—was also selected to compete in an earlier stage of the NYC Urban Barcode project. Their research analyzed the presence of echinacea purpurea in medicinal supplements. Both groups were accepted into the competition on the basis of the “originality, creativity, relevance, plausibility and scientific merit” of their research proposals.