Several Indian-American Whiz Kids Among Finalists in Regeneron Science Talent Search

Budding scientists will compete for $1.8 million in awards including top prize of $250,000

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, February 21, 2017 – Indian-American whiz kids are on a roll, continuing to make headlines in America for their sharp intellect and brilliance. Now 14 Indian-origin high school students out of 40 finalists in the highly-acclaimed Regeneron Science Talent Search are heading for the final competition next month in the nation’s capital.

Over the course of a week, March 9 to 15, the 40 budding scientists will present their innovative research projects to eminent judges, display their work to the public, meet with renowned scientists, and compete for 1.8 million dollars in awards. Winners of the top ten prizes, ranging from 40,000 to 250,000 dollars, will be announced March 14 at a formal gala in the National Building Museum.

It is noteworthy that out of over 1,700 applicants for the Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS), 300 semi-finalists were selected each receiving 2,000 dollars in addition to their school getting a grant of an equivalent amount. Of these ‘Top Scholars’, 40 finalists were announced January 24 of which 35 percent are Indian-American kids: Prathik Naidu, 18, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia; Sambuddha Chattopadhyay, 17, and Rohan Dalvi, 18, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland; Indrani Das, 17, Academy for Medical Science Technology, Hackensack, New Jersey; Krithika Iyer, 18, Plano East Senior High School, Plano, Texas; Vineet Edupuganti, 17, Oregon Episcopal School, Portland, Oregon; Apoorv Khandelwal, 17, Tesla STEM High School, Redmond, Washington; Vrinda Madan, 17, Lake Highland Preparatory School, Orlando, Florida; Evani Radiya-Dixit, 18, Manan Ajay Shah, 17, and Arjun Subramaniam, 17, The Harker School, San Jose, California; Archana Verma, 17, Jericho Senior High School, Jericho, New York; Jessika Baral, 17, Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, California; and Arjun Srinivasan Ramani, 18, West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Through science, the finalists have attempted to tackle compelling issues such as fighting cancer and other life-threatening diseases, combating climate change and protecting the environment, among others.

The STS, a program of Society for Science and the Public since 1942, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. It was formerly known as the Intel Science Talent Search (1998-2016) and earlier was supported by Westinghouse (1942-1997). Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a leading biotechnology company headquartered in New York, took on the STS from this year when it will be giving over 3.1 million in awards. Founded by STS alumni and a true champion of science, the company has committed 100 million dollars in funding over the next decade.

Throughout its 75 years, the criteria for selection in the STS has remained the same: students are chosen from across the nation for their scientific prowess and overall potential to become future leaders of the scientific community.

Alumni of the program have made extraordinary contributions to science and are recipients of over 100 of the world’s most prized honors in science and maths including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science. In a press statement, Dr. George Yancopoulos, Founding Scientist, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, said, “I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my fellow Science Talent Search alumni who have gone on to become notable scientists and entrepreneurs, underscoring the critical role the program can play in launching a prominent scientific career”.

About the 40 finalists, Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science and the Public, noted that they “are poised to be the next generation of leaders in business and academia. Science breeds curiosity, enabling innovators to develop solutions that will help solve our world’s most pressing challenges”, she said.

Regarding the research projects of the Indian-American finalists, their innovations are as follows:
– Prathik Naidu: DNALoopR: A novel high-performance machine learning predictor to identify genome-wide 3D DNA interactions in cancer;
– Sambuddha Chattopadhyay: On T-Reflection via analytic continuation in Quantum Mechanics;
– Rohan Dalvi: Kinetic trapping and structural determination of native state biomolecules in the gas phase;
– Indrani Das: Exosomal miR-124a: novel translational astrocyte repair in reactive astrogliosis in vitro;
– Krithika Iyer: Bayesian knowledge trace for mind theoretic applications;
– Vineet Edupuganti: Development of a high-performance biodegradable battery for transient electronics;
– Apoorv Khandelwal: Molecular dynamics simulation and experimental fabrication of nanoporous graphene membranes for optimal water permeability in reverse osmosis desalination;
– Vrinda Madan: Identification of highly selective anti-malarial compounds and characterization of mechanisms of action;
– Evani Radiya-Dixit: Identification of diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic cancer targets across adenocarcinomas using genome-wide DNA methylation analyses;
– Manan Ajay Shah: Deep learning assessment of tumor proliferation in histopathological images for categorical and molecular breast cancer severity diagnosis;
– Arjun Subramaniam: CadML: A new, computational approach to optimizing antibody affinity for design of antibody therapeutics;
– Archana Verma: Spin-orbit coupling induced heterogeneous excited state dynamics in 6-coordinate transition metal protodyes;
– Jessika Baral: Machine learning tool for detection of small cell lung cancer stage using novel nuclear factor I/B expression – significantly increase patient survival in less than one minute;
– Arjun Srinivasan Ramani: Fast sampling of stochastic kronecker graphs.

The 40 finalists in the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search, 13 of whom are Indian-American high school students. They will be heading to Washington, DC in March for the final event, competing for over 1.8 million in awards including the top prize of 250,000 dollars. Photo courtesy: Society for Science and the Public

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