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Huntington Juniors Participate in Cancer Conference

Joshua Solomowitz and Megan Hansen are just as concerned about the scourge of cancer as anyone – maybe even more so. The Huntington High School juniors recently participated in a national conference in Cincinnati that focused on breast cancer's connection to environmental factors.

Mr. Solomowitz and Ms. Hansen are two of the top students enrolled in Huntington's science research program. It's a time consuming class that demands a great deal of effort, but returns a generous bounty of dividends, including enhancing the critical thinking process and sharpening the skills needed to make presentations to large groups.

The two Huntington teenagers participated in a breast cancer research program last summer sponsored by the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition and the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition. Mr. Solomowitz conducted research under the guidance of Drs. Jose and Irma Russo at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA while Ms. Hansen worked with scientist Julia Brody, Ph.D. at Silent Spring Institute in Newtown, MA.

The duo was among a select group of nine Long Island high school scholars picked for the "Students and Scientists" environmental research internship program. Participants were provided with full scholarships for the program, which connects community grassroots coalitions, local students, research centers and school districts.

Mr. Solomowitz and Ms. Hansen conducted their summer research as members of small teams that included other elite LI students. Abstracts of that research were used to apply for inclusion in the conference held at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel.

The gathering on "extended environmental exposures" constituted the annual meeting of the breast cancer and environment research program. The conference was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute.

"This was an eye-opening opportunity that only a few could ever experience," Mr. Solomowitz said. "It was great to see so many people trying to change the world and make it a safer place."

The Huntington juniors participated in sessions on "windows of susceptibility," new methodologies for indentifying potential exposures of interest, key messages and communicating findings. Dr. Bruce Blumberg of the University of California at Irvine gave the keynote address at the conference.

Mr. Solomowitz and Ms. Hansen created poster board displays for the conference, presenting their respective summer research findings, including the data they collected during their work.

"It was really intriguing meeting all these scientists," Ms. Hansen said. "I picked up a lot of valuable information about health and breast cancer, which I'm definitely going to circulate back into the community to improve both my life and the life of others."

The Huntington teenagers' favorite experience during the two-day conference came when they had an opportunity to listen to the scientists as they presented their research findings. The pair said they found that sharing a unique passion for a subject is a great way to learn new concepts and to make new friends.

(Amber Lindner, secretary of the high school science club, contributed to this story.)

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