Sophie Does Not Skip a Beat in Science Research

By Renner Kwittken

When asked about Sophie Karp’s future, her Science Research teacher, Mrs. Greenwald, responded, “Sophie is born to be a doctor. She is fascinated by the intricacies of biology and wants to make the world a better place. With her determination, incredible organization skills, and maturity, she will do [just that]!” Sophie is studying the relationship between chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular diseases. Her project is titled “FGF23 induces cardiac hypertrophy independent of ANGII.” Behind the plethora of big words is an amazing discovery with the potential to save future lives.

A substantial amount of patients who experience renal (kidney) failure are at risk for heart attacks, as well as other heart problems. One problem the heart encounters following  kidney failure is a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy, which is when the left ventricle expands dramatically and causes heart attacks, a pumping deficiency, and eventually death. Sophie’s study looked at two different hormones present in the body in high quantities during renal failure and left ventricular hypertrophy. The two hormones were FGF23 (fibroblast growth factor 23) which is the culprit for left ventricular hypertrophy, and ANGII (angiotensin II) which raises blood pressure. Using these hormones, she was trying to establish the connection between kidney failure and left ventricular hypertrophy.

Sophie’s first mentor was Dr. Maartan Taal, who worked with the University of Nottingham in England. Her original plan was to undertake an MRI kidney study. Unfortunately, out of country data restrictions foiled her plan, and her mentor ended up dropping her during her junior year.  But a paper Dr. Taal gave Sophie about FGF23 written by Dr. Christian Faul led her to pursue him as her next mentor. She worked with Dr. Faul at Miami University over this past summer.

According to Ms. Greenwald, Sophie’s mentor and lab allowed her “to guide her own research. Sophie looked at the literature and found some discrepancies that her mentor let her explore in the lab.” Sophie also feels she gained a great deal from Dr. Faul’s mentorship. She learned how to communicate with her superiors, of which there were many. She was “the youngest member in Dr. Faul’s lab by 10 years.”

She presented her hard work in a powerpoint at JSHS, and competed at NYSEF, the state level of WESEF. On top of all that, Sophie is a part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and took History of Disease, Paleo Biology, and Intro to Biomedical Sciences at CTY (Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth).

For the future she is looking to major in biomedical engineering as well as attend medical school. She is interested in specializing in cardiology, but is keeping her options open. She is interning for her senior internship at Burke Medical Research Institute to help rehabilitate stroke victims with the assistance of robotics.  

Many freshman are applying or have already applied for classes for next year. For those considering Science research, Sophie suggests to, “Definitely apply. And don’t be afraid to take risks. If you try something you could fail to gain what you were looking for, but if you don’t try at all then you have a 100% chance of not gaining what you are looking for.” Sophie is not going to leave without leaving her mark on the Science Research Program either. Mrs. Greenwald says that “Sophie is one of the top research students in the program… [she] continues to set the bar high in science research. She sets the standard for students to come. I am certain I will be using her experiences, her paper and other things she has done as exemplars to show to our future students. If all of our students strive to be like Sophie we will see some amazing things coming out of the science research program in the future.”