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Female STEM students on Long Island receive national honors for mosquito research

L.I. STEM students receive national honors for mosquito research
L.I. STEM students receive national honors for mosquito research 02:41

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. -- A group of female STEM students on Long Island who have been studying mosquitoes are getting national honors.

They're answering questions about climate change and mosquito migration and the link between disease and diet.

They tell CBS2's Jennifer McLogan they "feel like rock stars."

"We got published and look where we are now," Cold Spring Harbor High School senior Jenna Schetty said.

Floating on air and the pride of Cold Spring Harbor, brilliant science minds of four female students collaborated on the lowly but deadly mosquito.

"Mosquitoes are tiny, but so dangerous," Jenna said.

The prestigious National Institutes of Health information database was listening, publishing their research sequencing of mosquito DNA.

"We took the DNA from the legs of the mosquitoes, and we isolated it, amplified it and purified it," Cold Spring Harbor High School senior Sophie Cohen said.

There are 176 species of mosquitoes in North America.

"We were basically finding the species of the mosquitoes but also the species of blood in their stomach, so we actually barcoded human DNA that we found in the stomachs of the mosquitoes," Cold Spring Harbor High School senior Veronica Walkin said.

Human DNA as well as cows, pigs and dogs.

Mosquitoes can carry diseases such as encephalitis, West Nile, malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

"Could they be bringing diseases that we are vulnerable to? It was a major concern of ours," Jenna said.

Climate change creating new mosquito habitats. Samples were found here from the South and Midwest.

"A pretty big threat in the future because as the climate changes, mosquitoes are going to start to migrate to places they didn't live in," Cold Spring Harbor High School senior Madison Brass said.

The girls spent a year with mentors at the nearby Cold Spring Harbor Labs.

"To have the Cold Spring Harbor Lab right here and that partnership makes it even better," said Cold Spring Harbor Schools superintendent Jill Gierasch.

The teens hope their research will encourage female students to pursue topics they are interested in, potentially having a big impact on the world.

"I think it's just so important that women are starting to come into the STEM field," Madison said.

"One never knows how much a small study can grow into something significant. Science is full of stories like that," said molecular and genomic biology teacher Jaak Raudsepp.

Inspiring a school, each other and their futures.

"I'm kind of torn right now between being a vet or being a doctor 'cause I just really, really want to help the world," Madison said.

Already making a real difference.

Their mosquito research was presented at the Barcode Long Island Symposium at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, where STEM students from across Long Island discuss their science projects.

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