Rye Neck High School junior Ava Liebmann earned a fourth-place award in the Plant Science category at the prestigious Regeneron Westchester Science & Engineering Fair, held virtually from March 15-19.
Liebmann showcased her outstanding research project, “The Effect of Climatic Heat Stress on the Function of RuBisCO,” before a panel of judges. Her research focused on the enzyme RuBisCO, an inefficient protein responsible for catalyzing photosynthesis and aiding in plant growth.
“As the effects of global climate change heighten, plants are exposed to increasingly high temperatures,” Liebmann said. “In order to ensure that we are prepared for the future, it is imperative to study the effect of temperature fluctuations on plants. The aim of this experiment was to determine how RuBisCO responds to temperature increases and the effect of temperature on the enzyme’s already low efficiency.”
To complete her research, Liebmann grew plants at two different temperatures, one normal and the other heat stressed. She discovered that growth of the normal plants was hindered under heat stress and identified RuBisCO as the limiting factor since the only difference between the two groups was its relative function.
“Ava’s forward thinking of how climate change will affect plants on Earth also has implications for mitigating world hunger,” science teacher Kristi Rachiele said. “Ava’s dedication to her research is inspiring, and I look forward to seeing where she goes from here. She has a very bright future ahead of her.”
The Westchester Science & Engineering Fair encourages high school students to participate in hands-on science by providing them a forum to showcase their research. This year, the fair featured approximately 560 projects, representing 44 schools across Putnam and Westchester counties.