Q&A: Regeneron ISEF Participant Aditi Kona

This year, the Regeneron ISEF went virtual! LRSEF alum Aditi Kona participated in the virtual fair and shared her experience with us.

Can you tell us a little bit about your project?

My project, “Examining Mechanisms of Resistance in Estrogen Receptor-Positive Palbociclib-Resistant Breast Cancer Cells” aimed to understand the mechanisms behind metastatic breast cancer. My research stemmed from treatment with palbociclib, an innovative drug, against cancer cell lines, and relied on the inherent quality of cancer cells to acquire resistance. The purpose of this project was to identify the concentrations and functions of specific proteins in the cyclin D1-CDK4/6-Rb axis and determine the efficacy of an oncolytic adenovirus (OAd). I focused on a relatively unknown, promising field known as combination therapies to manipulate the innate quality of cancer cells to develop resistance. These studies provide a base for a novel anti-cancer treatment combining palbociclib and an OAd to effectively treat ER+ metastatic breast cancer.

What did you think of the virtual ISEF experience?

I thought virtual ISEF was a genuinely great experience, especially since it was more extensive than I had imagined it to be. There were countless opportunities set up in the platform that were designed to resemble real-life ISEF. Not only did it surpass expectations, but it also acted as a gateway for numerous individuals, including myself, to gain substantial knowledge in STEM.

Did you attend any of the additional virtual ISEF sessions? If yes, what was your favorite session and why?

Yes! Hearing from esteemed company officials, Nobel Laureates, and notable professors was a very valuable experience and genuinely provided a great insight into a variety of topics from college admissions to the greatest unanswered physics questions. Personally, I greatly enjoyed The Role of CRISPR and COVID-19, especially since my science fair project last year was on human gene-editing which encompasses CRISPR. Hearing Feng Zheng, one of the first investigators to pioneer the use of this revolutionary technology was fascinating as he explained his own journey and ground-breaking research.

Did you face any difficulties in participating in the virtual fair? If yes, how did you work to overcome them?

I didn’t face any challenges when participating as the virtual fair was structured very well and allowed the public to explore not only the daily panels but also the Finalists’ projects and extra STEM opportunities!

Is there anything else you want to tell us about the ISEF experience?

Although I am disappointed that I did not get to attend ISEF in person, the Society for Science and Public and Regeneron gave not just me, but the public an invaluable opportunity to take part in a rewarding experience, learn from renowned experts, and explore projects from Finalists worldwide. The virtual fair offered incredible events like Kominer’s Conundrums and the chance to chat with specific universities which allowed the public to not just learn about other science fair projects but gain extensive knowledge in STEM.