OSSINING, N.Y. – Ossining High School senior Daniel McQuaid lost a cousin to cancer several years ago. This weekend, the 17-year-old is hoping his scientific research on a compound that fights cancer will garner him national attention at a regional science research competition at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Daniel is set to compete with a dozen other students from New York in the Siemens Foundation Competition in Math, Science & Technology at CMU this weekend. A total of 2,255 teens nationwide entered the competition to seek the top award of a $100,000 scholarship, according to a press release. At the regional finals, students present their original research to university judges during two days of competition. Altogether 15 teens from New York City, Long Island and Westchester will compete this weekend.
“It was really difficult losing someone in my family to cancer so I knew that from the beginning of high school that I wanted to go into science research at Ossining High School and I wanted to do something cancer-related,” Daniel said. “With this research, I could potentially really help people suffering from cancer. I think my project has made me realize that this could be really big and really exciting because there are some beneficial applications for the future that I think is the ultimate goal.”
Daniel spent hundreds of hours over his summer break at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland researching a biochemistry project developing a new molecule that could induce significant cell death in multiple types of cancer. Daniel paired up with teammate Vickram Gidwani of Demarest, N.J. and the two submitted a scientific research proposal earlier in the year.
“I was working pretty lengthy hours but it was definitely worth it,” Daniel said, adding that he felt a rush of relief when he heard he was a finalist in October. “It was amazing. I remember refreshing my phone every two minutes to see and I was really ecstatic when I found out we were selected.”
Daniel’s mother Gloria McQuaid said she has never seen the kind of passion that Daniel showed working in Cleveland.
“He was devoting 80 hours or more a week on this research for the entire summer,” Gloria McQuaid said. “I remember telling him that he should also get out and have some fun over the summer and he told me that this is what he wanted and this was something he really enjoyed doing. He’s highly motivated and he wants to find a cure.”
Daniel said it would be the greatest accomplishment of his life to eventually find a cure, but for now the high school student is focused on the next step in the competition.
“I wouldn’t call what we’re doing a cure but I think it’s very promising,” Daniel said. “This is a very exciting opportunity to go to the regional final. If we win our region, then we’ll be able to compete in nationals and that would be amazing.”