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Samantha Maya Milewicz

Byram Hills High School
Armonk, New York

About Samantha Maya Milewicz

Samantha studied how the body’s normal immune reaction to traumatic brain injury can cause secondary damage to the blood brain barrier by overproducing a protein that’s usually helpful. She observed that by reducing overproduction of MMP-9, the barrier maintained its structure better, which may indicate possible future therapeutic potential.

Selective Inhibition of Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Attenuates Traumatic Brain Injury Mediated Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in a Novel Dynamic in vitro Model

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Samantha Maya Milewicz, 17, of Armonk, studied how the body’s immune reaction to traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to secondary injury by damaging the protective blood-brain barrier (BBB) for her Regeneron Science Talent Search neuroscience project. One element of this protection is claudin-5, a protein that helps hold the cells that line the brain’s blood vessels tightly together. For her research, Samantha used a model of the BBB that mimicked the conditions of a TBI. She found that following a TBI, the body overproduces a protein called MMP-9; this causes the claudin-5 to degrade and this decreases the barrier’s protective effect. Using different agents to reduce MMP-9 overproduction, Samantha was able to restore BBB function in the model, providing insight into MMP-9’s potential as a target for future therapeutic development.

The daughter of Meredith and Steven Milewicz, Samantha presides over four clubs at Byram Hills High School, where she is a member of the principal’s advisory committee and editor-in-chief of the school paper. She also volunteers as a firefighter, is a nationally certified EMT and a freelance photographer who displays and sells her artistic works at galleries.

Samantha Milewicz STS 2023 Finalist with project

Beyond the Project

Samantha presented her study, as first author, at the 18th Annual Academic Surgical Congress in Houston, Texas.

FUN FACTS: On her 16th birthday, Samantha did two things she was finally old enough to do – apply to the local fire department to become an EMT/firefighter and donate blood. “I had to overcome my fear of needles because I was so keen on helping people,” she says.

Illustration of 2023 STS finalist Samantha Milewicz by Amy Wike
Illustration by Amy Wike