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April 7, 2017
TALENT SEARCH
Regeneron Finalists Visit NIH

Forty finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search Competition—the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors—visited NIH on Mar. 13. A national panel of scientists and engineers selected the finalists based on their original research. The students were in Washington for a week to share their projects and take part in the final competition.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins regaled the students with stories of his own trajectory into science, from growing up home-schooled on a Virginia farm to leading the Human Genome Project. “The moral here is that if you think you have a linear pathway between where you are today and where you might be 30 years from now, think again,” he said. “Don’t narrow your sights too early. That’s one thing I worry about—really gifted people like you get really good at something and stop paying attention to what is going on in the rest of the landscape.”

NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak provided an overview of NIH training opportunities and several NIH investigators gave lab tours, including Dr. Kapil Bharti, Stadtman investigator in NEI’s unit on ocular stem cell and translational research; Dr. Ben Busby, genomics outreach coordinator in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, NLM; Dr. Chryssa Kanellopoulou, research fellow in the Laboratory of Immunology, NIAID; and Dr. Donna Novacic, a staff clinician in the Undiagnosed Diseases Program, NHGRI.

The week culminated in the announcement of $2 million in top awards, including the $250,000 first-place winner award to Indrani Das, 17, of Oradell, N.J., for her study of a possible approach to treating the death of neurons due to brain injury or neurodegenerative disease.

Second place honors and $175,000 went to Aaron Yeiser, 18, of Schwenksville, Pa., for his development of a new mathematical method for solving partial differential equations on complicated geometries.

Third place honors and $150,000 went to Arjun Ramani, 18, of West Lafayette, Ind., for blending the mathematical field of graph theory with computer programming to answer questions about networks.

The Society for Science & the Public has administered the Science Talent Search since its inception in 1942, first in partnership with Westinghouse, then with Intel Corp. 1998-2016, and now in partnership with Regeneron. The society is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education.

Dr. Kapil Bharti (r) shows Regeneron finalists around his lab in NEI’s unit on ocular stem cell and translational research.
Dr. Kapil Bharti (r) shows Regeneron finalists around his lab in NEI’s unit on ocular stem cell and translational research.

PHOTO: CHRIS AYERS/SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC

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