Age: 17Ossining, NY
Project Title: Utilizing Sugar derived Glassy Matrices to Test a Controversial Mechanism for N2O3 Production within the Red Blood Cell
It is commonly known that red blood cells (RBC) play a crucial role in carrying oxygen throughout our body, and it is also widely believed that it is the only major function that RBCs are involved in. However, emerging evidence suggests that during strenuous inflammatory conditions, RBCs produce nitric oxide (NO) and this NO is then going on to dilate our blood vessels. What is unclear in this process, however, is how NO is leaving the RBC once it is produced, owing to its high reactivity. That is exactly what my study set out to investigate. Utilizing a novel biophysical tool, this study was able to provide evidence for a mechanism that suggests exactly how NO is leaving the RBC and getting to the blood vessel. If future studies could build on this research and identify a potential method to deliver NO to targeted sites of inflammation, it would mean a significant step forward in treating chronic inflammatory diseases.
Hello, my name is Vishnu, and I have just graduated from Ossining High School. I was first introduced to research as a part of my school’s science research program, and it has played a major role in my high school experience ever since. Over the past two years, working in a lab has taught me many things, but perhaps the most important skill that I learned is to let go of the straightforward simplicity that we are increasingly being accustomed to in school and learn to face questions that do not have yes or no answers. While I initially struggled with this at first, I slowly started to fall in love with zig-zagging and the unpredictable nature of research and becoming a Davidson Fellow not only validates my path but further cements my passion for science.
Nitric Oxide (NO) plays a crucial role in many key biological processes. However, NO is highly reactive, and it remains unclear as to how exactly NO activity is preserved within the bloodstream. My study provides evidence for the existence of the Nitrite Anhydrase (NA) reaction, through which NO bioactivity is transported out of the red blood cell (RBC) and to the blood vessels. These results suggest that RBCs, in addition to maintaining oxygen transport, also play an active role in regulating NO levels as a potential novel function for the RBC. Future studies on translating this research into medical applications could potentially look into harnessing the potential of RBCs as therapeutic agents to deliver NO to targeted sites, and if successful, it would mean a huge breakthrough in treating chronic inflammatory diseases.
As with many high schoolers that conduct research for the first time, when I first started, I was convinced that it was the first step on my journey to curing cancer in the next two years. Little did I know then that it would take countless sleepless nights and much more than two years just to understand the challenges faced by scientists every day. This realization dawned on me from the very first day of science research, when I started reading articles, with complex words and concepts I could barely comprehend. As I started research over the summer, I continued to face these challenges and started to become frustrated, but, even without me realizing, I found myself falling in love with the struggle that came with the project. This transition, however, could not have been made possible without the help of my mentor Dr. Joel M. Friedman and Dr. Mahantesh S. Navati, who were always there for me when I needed help. I would also like to thank my science research teachers, Mr. Angelo Piccirillo and Ms. Valerie Holmes who encouraged me to pursue my passions while offering me the proper guidance whenever it was needed.
The need to understand the mechanism behind the exportation of NO within the RBCs is of much physiological importance as it raises the possibility for harnessing the RBC’s potential as a therapeutic agent for delivering nitric oxide to targeted sites of inflammation. The evidence I have collected in my study suggests that the mechanism through which NO is being exported out of the RBC is through a reaction called the Nitrite Anhydrase, but further experiments need to be conducted to further cement this conclusion. However, if we are indeed able to identify the exact mechanism and harness this new RBC potential in the near future, it would mean a significant step forward in treating chronic inflammatory diseases.
I have just recently graduated from Ossining High School, and I credit a lot of what I have experienced and achieved to the STEM classes I took at OHS. In particular, the science research program was what introduced me to research and has not only succeeded in cementing my passion for science but has also successfully built a strong community of like-minded peers and innovators from whom I have learned almost as much as I have learned from the scientists I worked with. I plan on attending Case Western in the coming year.
As for the future, I plan on majoring in biomedical engineering at Case, but what I want to pursue after that remains unclear. I am confident, however, that I will pursue a career in STEM. In terms of awards, I have won many in local science fairs but the most notable include the Westchester Chemical Society Award for outstanding achievement in scientific research and the George D. Yancopoulos award through which I was given the opportunity to meet Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, and also receive a summer internship at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. While research did take up the majority of time in high school, I was also a part of many other school clubs including youth to youth, the current, and mathletes. In addition to this, I was also a part of the Ossining varsity swim and tennis teams. In my free time, I like to play video games, chess, listen to music, swim, and read non- fiction books.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? My path after undergraduate remains unclear, but I hope to remain working on cutting edge technologies that can have a widespread impact.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Pindaros Roy Vagelos, Satya Narayana Nadella, Steven Paul Jobs
If you could be on any TV show, which one would it be?Either Suits or Silicon Valley
In the News
Yonkers, N.Y. – The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has announced the 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winners. Among the honorees are Isha Puri, 18, of Chappaqua; Vishnu Akash Polkampally, 17, of Ossining; and Brian Wu, 17, of Scarsdale. Only 20 students across the country are recognized as scholarship winners each year.
Vishnu Polkampally’s project, Utilizing Sugar derived Glassy Matrices to Test a Controversial Mechanism for N2O3 Production within the Red Blood Cell, studied how the nitric oxide produced by red blood cells leave the blood cells to dilate the blood vessels. His work could mean a significant step forward in treating chronic inflammatory diseases by delivering the nitric oxide to targeted sites of inflammation. Polkampally plans to continue his studies at Case Western in the fall.
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Started in 1999, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a 501(c)3 private operating foundation. Our mission is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people ages 18 and under, and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.