LARCHMONT - Mark Alexander says he is going to Norway in the name of science.
The Mamaroneck High School junior became the youngest recipient of the National Institutes of Health Travel Award for the research he has done as a member of the school's Original Science Research program. The award will pay for part of his trip to Geilo, Norway this September, where he will become the first high school student to have ever presented his research to the International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA).
"I applied hoping that I could at least go as a guest, maybe," Alexander said. "But, they awarded me a young investigators travel award for $800. I didn't expect it at all, but I hope it indicates my hard work and maybe jump-starts a career in medicine, or medical research."
The Larchmont resident chose to study the effects of the amino acid taurine on the human placenta for OSR, which is a three-year elective taken in addition to the normal course load. Alexander said hopes his current research will help people one day.
"I really like science that has practical applications, things that you can apply to real-life situations," he said.
Alexander will continue his research this summer with his OSR mentor, who is one of only 200 people in the world who specialize in taurin, he said. They will work at the Institute for Basic Research on Staten Island.
"I was quite lucky in finding a mentor who specializes in it close to where I live," said Alexander, who began working with his mentor last summer for three-to-four days per week.
Most OSR students don't identify their research project until the end of sophomore year, at which point they have to seek out a professional who specializes in that field to work with.
Alexander credits the head of OSR Guido Garbarino for getting an early start. "He's the one who really started my research," Alexander said. "it wasn't my mom, it wasn't me, it was Mr. Garbarino who said i have the tools to get started early."
"He's a kid with a lot of natural aptitude for science, the concepts come to him easily and he works hard," Garbarino said.
Most of Alexander's friends are part of the OSR program, but Alexander hopes his research doesn't dominate his summer. "I have a lot of fun doing it, but i have a lot of fun also having a life," the X-Box enthusiast said.
Alexander said he is used to balancing work and play as a member of the Varsity fencing team and a travel soccer league. But, looking forward to next year, Alexander said he already has senioritis.
"I think that next year is going to be the difficulty," he said. "I'm taking many more courses on top of OSR and there are going to be a lot more competitions next year."
Alexander is off to a good start after placing second in medicine at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair. "As a junior, I thought that was quite good," said Alexander, who is considering several colleges, including New York University and North Western.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.