Highlights

2020-2021

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This was the third year of an innovative and exciting partnership between the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center and the Central Bucks School District. Student participants take a course on-site, either AP Chemistry or a Biotechnology Research Elective, and take part in a research internship with a mentor. During this experience, participants also engage in an independent research project.


Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was one of our most successful years yet, with students earning unprecedented recognition and thousands of dollars in scholarship offers and cash.

2020-2021 Program Participants: Cohorts 2 and 3

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The following students are not pictured:

Alexandra Schramm, Andrew Parker, Alexander Baxevanidis, Matthew Brownrigg, Lucas Guernon, Ethan Hardis, Jake Kushnir, Hridayam Priyadarshi

Thank you!

Our program is not possible without the tireless efforts of our mentors and supervisors. Their work is truly the heartbeat of the program. 2020-2021 mentors and supervisors include:


  • Kevin Gerbrick, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute
  • Frank Jones, Greene Street Pharmaceuticals
  • John Kulp, PhD, Director of Academic Affairs, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute
  • David Schad, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute
  • Darl Swartz, PhD,
    BSBI/Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine/Thomas Jefferson/Temple/TCNJ
  • Usha Viswanathan, PhD, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute


Thank you to the following EITC donors:

  • Fred Beans Family of Dealerships
  • Fulton Bank Premier Division
  • Norwood Company
  • Riverview Bank
  • Softerware, Inc.
  • Univest Financial

  • Waste Management, Inc.
  • Weis Markets, Inc.


We enjoy tremendous support from a multitude of other stakeholders. Though we cannot list them all here, we did want to extend a special thanks to the following individuals:

  • Mark Hayden, CBSD Teacher and Research Adviser
  • Anton Ocepek, CBSD STEM Research Club Adviser
  • Gerard Michaud, PhD, Community Consultant
  • Laura Enama, Former CBSD Supervisor of Science, K-12
  • Steven Willis, CBSD Supervisor of Science, K-12
  • Jason Bucher, Principal, Central Bucks High School- South
  • Chad Watters, Ed.D, Principal, Central Bucks High School- East
  • Timothy Donovan, Principal, Central Bucks High School- West
  • Scott Davidheiser, Ed.D, Former CBSD Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education
  • John Kopicki, Ed.D, Former CBSD Superintendent of Schools
  • Abram Lucabaugh, Ed.D, Acting CBSD Superintendent
  • Members of the CBSD School Board
  • Timothy Block, PhD, President,
    Hepatitis B Foundation, Baruch S Blumberg Institute, PA Biotechnology Center
  • Lou Kassa, Executive Vice President and COO,
    Hepatitis B Foundation, Baruch S Blumberg Institute, PA Biotechnology Center
  • Jean Holmes, Vice President, Hepatitis B Foundation, Baruch S Blumberg Institute
  • Edward Tate, Director, Communications & Marketing
    Hepatitis B Foundation, Baruch S Blumberg Institute, PA Biotechnology Center
  • John Kulp, PhD, Director of Academic Affairs, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute
  • Montana McAlorum, Communications & Marketing Coordinator,
    Baruch S Blumberg Institute and PA Biotechnology Center
  • Susanna McGrogan, Executive Coordinator, Hepatitis B Foundation
  • Debbie Blough, Receptionist/Accounting Assistant, Baruch S. Blumberg Institute
  • Tim Kelly, Vice President, The Norwood Company

Become a supporter!

Our impactful educational programs are costly. Please consider a tax-deductible gift. If you are in a position to give, please consider making a gift "in honor of" the CBSD Biotech Partnership Program.

LEARN MORE HERE

Cohort Two / Year Two Participants

These students participated in the 2019-2020 school year as juniors and continued this year as seniors. All will graduate from CBSD this June. This tremendous group has achieved at a high level and has added value to the program, leaving it better than they found it.
Not pictured: Alexandra Schramm, Andrew Parker
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2020-2021 Projects

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2020-2021 Competition Results

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Thank you to David Schad!

We wish to extend a special thank you to David Schad. After years of mentoring our students, David has entered a doctoral program at UT Southwestern. We appreciate all of your help over the years. Congratulations and best wishes!
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Welcome Back!

Kristina Holmen and Samantha Zanine (both from Cohort 1) will be employed at the Center this summer.

Participant Spotlights

Glenda Armas

The Role of Aluminum Resistance Genes against Pisum Sativum Phytotoxicity


Mentor: Dr. Darl Swartz


  • 1st Place, DVSF
    Best Botany project for any senior in tri-state region!
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award, PJAS Regionals
  • 1st Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


Phytotoxicity is generalized as a toxic effect by a compound on plant growth. These compounds cause major agricultural losses and can even be human carcinogens according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pectin Methylesterases (PME), Calmodulin (CAM), and Glytanyl Cysteine Synthase (GGCS), and glutathione reductase (GRED) are genes that could increase the aluminum resistance and stop the effects of aluminum phytotoxicity. The goal of my project was to investigate the gene expressions of the four genes on eight different aluminum exposed Pisum Sativum (Pea) cultivars and stop the delay in plant maturation.


Glenda, a CB South senior and STEM Leadership Council Member, will attend Temple University where she will major in Biology. Glenda has been accepted into the Honors Program and is a Dean's Scholarship recipient.

Jason Rackas

Benford's Law & LDL-C Levels


Mentor: Dr. John Kulp


  • 1st Place, DVSF
    Best Mathematics project for any junior in tri-state region!
  • Mu Alpha Theta Award
  • University of the Sciences Scholarship ($37,000; $9,250/year)
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award, PJAS Regionals
  • 2nd Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


I used a data set of LDL cholesterol measurements to determine whether any modifications would allow it to align with the distribution of Benford's Law, an interesting mathematical phenomenon that shows that of all numbers in the universe, more numbers begin with digits closer to 1 than 9. If LDL data or modified LDL data does align with the distribution of Benford's Law, any group/demographic whose LDL levels do not align with the distribution of Benford's Law would likely have some outside factor affecting their LDL levels. This data can direct other researchers to people with anomalous LDL levels for further study.


Jason is a CB East junior.

Krishnakanth Katakota

Evaluating Existing Protease Inhibitors’ Efficacy Against the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus


Mentor: Dr. John Kulp


  • 1st Place, DVSF
    Best Chemistry project for any junior in tri-state region!
  • Yale Science and Engineering Association
  • University of the Sciences Scholarship ($37,000; $9,250/year)
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award, PJAS Regionals
  • 1st Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


As we all know, COVID-19 has been very deadly. In just over a year, it has killed 3.5 million people globally, and almost 600,000 people in America alone, and the issue is that we currently don't have effective treatments to combat the virus. My project aims to target COVID-19 by inhibiting their protease enzymes using currently existing protease inhibitor drugs for diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Proteases are enzymes that break larger proteins into smaller parts, and this is important for SARS-CoV-2, because it relies on protease enzymes to break one large protein into smaller proteins called NSPs. These NSPs then work together to take over cells, use them for viral replication, and destroy traces of infection so the body can't create defenses against it, meaning it's very hard to combat SARS-CoV-2. If a protease inhibitor can stop the protease enzymes from creating the NSPs, they could effectively kill the infection at its roots.


Krishnakanth is a CB South junior who is slated to return to the Center next year.

Michell Lin

Enhancing the Transdermal Drug Delivery of Risperidone


Mentor: Frank Jones, Greene Street Pharmaceuticals

  • 2nd Place, DVSF
    Second best Chemistry project for any senior in tri-state region!
  • 2nd Place for Janssen Biotechnology Research Award ($200)
  • Chemistry Award from West Pharmaceutical Services ($250)
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award and Perfect Score, PJAS Regionals
  • 2nd Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


I used risperidone as the model drug with a fixed skin permeation methodology to determine the most effective and safe chemical enhancers for drugs with similar properties. The most effective and safe chemical enhancer for risperidone is limonene. The matrix of this study can be applied the development of other transdermal drugs.


Michell, a CB West senior and STEM Leadership Club Council Member, will attend Washington and Lee University and will double-major in History and Chemistry. She earned the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED Scholarship.

Partha Panicker

A Weakness in the "Invulnerable" Superbugs, Mur Proteins and Molecule Testing to Disable Them


Mentor: Dr. John Kulp

  • 3rd Place, DVSF
    Third best Chemistry project for any senior in tri-state region!
  • US Department of Agriculture Eastern Regional Research Center Future Scientist Award
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award PJAS Regionals
  • 3rd Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


My project was geared toward finding a cure for the currently incurable antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA. As time passes, the chance of a large scale bacterial pandemic gets higher and higher, and as such, it is critical that we have a defense. Within the bacteria MRSA, there exist 7 proteins, labelled Mur proteins, that all work together to build the cell wall. The cell wall is what protects the bacteria, meaning that if a drug were to be found to affect these proteins, the cell wall would collapse and the bacteria would die.


Partha, a CB South senior and STEM Leadership Club Council Member, will attend Cornell University and with study biomechanical engineering.

Alexandra Schramm

Inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 Spike-Mediated Entry into Host Cells Using Small Molecules


Mentors: Dr. John Kulp and David Schad


  • 3rd Place Place, DVSF
    Third best microbiology project for any senior in tri-state region!
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award and Perfect Score, PJAS Regionals
  • 1st Place, BCSRC
  • Eastern PA Branch of the American Society of Microbiology Award
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


I am computationally testing a library of small molecules to find possible HIT compounds on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Biochemically active small molecules with be tested in silico. The molecules will be tested on the SARS-Cov-2 spike protein and will be tested in vitro.


Alex, a CB East senior and STEM Leadership Council Member, will attend the Honors Program at The Ohio State University majoring in Neuroscience on the pre-medical track. Alex earned the Provost and National Buckeye Scholar Scholarships

Elizabeth Zuerblis

The Pharmacologic Induction of cGAS and STING in Epigenetically Silenced Hepatocellular Carcinoma


Mentor: David Schad


  • 2nd Place, DVSF
    Second best Medicine and Health project for any senior in tri-state region!
  • Chromatography Forum of Delaware Valley HS Second Place ($75)
  • PA Society for Biomedical Research Award ($250)
  • Ronald C. Lorenzon Memorial Award ($100)
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award, PJAS Regionals
  • 2nd Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Place, PJAS State Meeting


My research focuses on two proteins in the immune system- STING and cGAS- that are heavily involved in innate immunity and the cancer progression progress but are commonly silenced in many cancers. I am working to reactivate the protein expression in hopes of initiating an immune system response and making cancerous cells more susceptible to treatment and cell death in general. I am specifically investigating the reactivation of these proteins in HCC which is a very prevalent type of liver cancer with few treatment options. The reactivation of the silenced proteins may prove to be useful as an immunotherapy for HCC and other cancers where cGAS and STING are also silenced.


Elizabeth, a CB South senior and STEM Leadership Council Member, will be studying biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Lucas Guernon

The Selective Killing Mechanism of Melittin


Mentor: David Schad


  • 3rd Place, DVSF
    Third best Biochemistry project for any junior in tri-state region!
  • $8,000 ($2,000/year) Scholarship PSU- Eberly College of Science
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award, PJAS Regionals
  • 3rd Place, BCSRC
  • 2nd Award, PJAS State Meeting


My project focuses on a compound called melittin which is found in honey bee venom. After reading through some related literature I found the a research group in Australia had discovered that it had the ability to selectively kill breast cancer cells. My project focuses on the specific mechanism that melittin uses in order to selectively kill the breast cancer cells.


Lucas is a CB East junior who is slated to return to the Center next year.

Veronica Swartz

The Effect of Aluminum Toxicity on Pea Root Cap Cells


Mentor: Dr. Darl Swartz


  • 3rd Place, DVSF
    Third best Botany project for any junior in tri-state region!
  • $8,000 ($2,000/year) Scholarship PSU- Eberly College of Science
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Scholarship ($15,000)
  • 1st Award, PJAS Regionals
  • 2nd Place, BCSRC
  • 1st Award, PJAS State Meeting


I tested the impact that two different heavy metals, copper sulfate and cobalt chloride, on root cap cells of pea plants. Both heavy metals were introduced to pea root tips at molarities ranging from 0.1-0.0001. The amount of sloughing, or shedding that occurred over 20 minutes was recorded and analyzed via the image analysis software FIJI. It was shown that the copper sulfate resulted in the largest sloughing at 0.001 molar. Root cap cells are vital to plant health overall, and any damage caused to the cells can be detrimental. Heavy metals like the two I tested can be found within the soil naturally, or artificially through pesticides. If the impact of these metals can be quantified, then potential soil viability could be determined based on metals present within the soil.


Veronica is a CB South junior and STEM Leadership Council Member who is slated to return to the Center next year.

Become a supporter!

Our impactful educational programs are costly. Please consider a tax-deductible gift. If you are in a position to give, please consider making a gift "in honor of" the CBSD Biotech Partnership Program.

LEARN MORE HERE

Seniors: Cohorts 2 and 3

Other Highlights

Also, CATCH up with highlights for this year from the CB South and CB West STEM Research Clubs. It was a BIG ONE!



Left: Jacob Holcombe (Cohort 2) fishing in his STEM Research Club shift for good luck.