Young Scientists Win Big At STS

Mar 19, 2017 By Arjun S, Young Editor
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You might see professors trying to understand the mysterious forces of the cosmos, solve complex mathematical problems, or design drugs that mimic our immune system. But seniors in high school? That’s pretty incredible.

This past week, 40 of the best and brightest of today’s young scientists gathered in Washington DC for the Science Talent Search. The competition, dating back more than 75 years, honors high school students who have conducted in-depth, impactful science research in a variety of fields.

This year saw only its third sponsor: Regeneron, a pharmaceuticals company. After a week of intense judging, Indrani Das, from Oradell, New Jersey, was announced as the winner, with a top award of $250,000! 

The Science Talent Search

The Science Talent Search is organized by the Society for Science and the Public, dating all the way back to 1942. It was originally sponsored by Westinghouse, an American manufacturing company, and switched to Intel in 1998. This year, after Intel dropped its sponsorship, Regeneron became only the third in the competition's 77-year history.

Even to become a semifinalist, it’s not easy. About 1800 applications are submitted— each one including a 20-page research paper, essays, recommendation letters, and more. From there, the top 300 applicants are named Semifinalists, and 40 finalists are eventually selected from that group. The top 40 fly to DC, where they are interviewed on their projects and knowledge of science, and the top 10 are finally selected. Phew! You can imagine how hard it is to be number 1.

Alumni of the STS have gone on to do pretty amazing things. Eight have won Nobel Prizes, two the Fields Medal (considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics), and five have been awarded the National Medal of Science. Safe to say, these are the science and technology leaders of tomorrow.

Meet the Winners

In 1st place, Indrani Das studied a new approach to treating the death of brain cells in brain injury or diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. She found a particular cell, called an astrocyte, that stops getting rid of toxic chemicals in the brain in these diseases. She then figured out how to get these cells to act normally. Apart from trying to cure brain diseases, Indrani tutors math and plays the trumpet in a jazz ensemble.

In 2nd place, Aaron Yeiser of Schwenksville, Pennsylvania developed a new mathematical method to solve complicated equations. Sounds simple, right? Not really. He applied his method to modeling the motion of water and fluids. Aaron is also a distance runner who does cross country and track.

And in 3rd place, Arjun Ramani of West Lafayette, Indiana designed a mathematical model to answer questions about networks. You’d be surprised how common networks are— Facebook is a social network that connects people, for example, and your own genes form a pretty complicated biological network. Arjun also is an accomplished debater, and plays tennis as well.

These 40 young finalists and winners have shown a passion and drive for going after the impossible. There are a lot of science and technology problems waiting to be solved. Maybe you’re next— get your hands dirty and start doing some science!

Source: Society for Science and the Public