These Teen Scientists Are Solving Problems You Didn’t Even Know Existed. Meet the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars.

By Maya Ajmera, President and CEO, Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News, 1985 Science Talent Search Alum

For most high school students, extracurricular activities mean playing on the basketball team, acting in a school play or running for student council. But for 300 remarkable U.S. high school seniors, they do these activities in addition to spending countless hours conducting independent research aimed at solving our world’s most pressing challenges through science. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to these students — the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search top scholars.

The Regeneron Science Talent Search, founded and produced by Society for Science & the Public, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious math and science competition for high school seniors. This year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars represent our country’s best and brightest young scientists, who are working to develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges through their research. These students were selected from more than 1,700 entrants on the basis of their exceptional scientific promise, excellent academic record and outstanding recommendations from teachers and other scientists.

Many of these 300 scholars were inspired to tackle problems facing their communities or health issues experienced by loved ones — they wanted to make a difference in the world around them. To be clear, their projects go far above and beyond the high school level: past competitors have built bioreactors from scratch to remove arsenic from drinking water, designed software that accurately predicts epileptic seizures, and developed an original method to discover new planets outside our solar system.

2013 Science Talent Search top winner Sara Volz investigated artificial selection for its potential to increase algae oil yields, which is essential for algae to become an economically feasible source of biofuel. Sara built a home lab under her loft bed and slept on the same light cycle as her algae.
2014 Science Talent Search top winner Eric Chen identified new drug candidates for the treatment of influenza, which could lead to a new class of drugs to control flu outbreaks during a pandemic, allowing time for a vaccine to be developed.
2016 Science Talent Search top winner Paige Brown studied the water quality of six environmentally impaired local streams with high E. coli and phosphate contamination levels, and developed a cost-effective filter made of calcium alginate strands to remove the phosphate from stormwater systems.

These exceptional students are true leaders and innovators — the top young scientists in our country today. They have an enthusiasm and passion for STEM that I know will inspire them to do amazing things as they head to college and beyond. Our alumni have gone on to receive more than 100 of the world’s most esteemed science and math honors, including 12 Nobel Prizes, 11 National Medals of Science, two Fields Medals, 18 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and four Breakthrough Prizes.

Each year brings exciting developments to the Science Talent Search, and 2017 is no exception. This year, we’re honored to welcome leading science and technology company Regeneron as the new sponsor of the competition — and only the third in its history. Regeneron’s sponsorship of the Science Talent Search comes at a time when new innovations in biotech and medicine are needed more urgently than ever — and are coming at an exciting pace. Regeneron’s mission is to use the power of science to bring medicines to patients in need over and over again, and a big part of making that happen over the long term involves providing support to the young minds who will continue to push the frontiers of discovery.

In order to provide these young innovators with an even greater range of resources to chase their scientific curiosity, Regeneron is doubling the monetary awards for our 300 young scholars. Each of the 300 scholars will receive $2,000, with an additional $2,000 granted to their school. The Society for Science & the Public is delighted to partner with a company so deeply committed to supporting the development of highly engaged and pioneering young thinkers.

Over the course of its 75-year legacy, the Regeneron Science Talent Search has touched thousands of lives — including my own. As a high school senior, I was among the students recognized by the Science Talent Search for my research. This year, it is my particular pleasure to collaborate with Regeneron’s founders Leonard Schleifer and George Yancopoulos, who are both fellow alumni. We all remember the thrill of being honored, the inspiration it gave us to pursue our interest in science, and the remarkable support we received from the Science Talent Search community.

What’s in store next for these scholars? Based on extraordinary scientific rigor, the top 40 students will be selected and announced as Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists on January 24. They will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., from March 9–15, during which they will undergo a rigorous judging process, interact with leading scientists, display their research for the public and meet with national leaders — all while competing for $1.8 million in awards, including a $250,000 top award, provided by Regeneron. As always, it will be a privilege to cheer them on from the sidelines.

Once again, congratulations to the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search scholars — we can’t wait to see where your passion for science and discovery will take you!

To view the full list of scholars, visit https://student.societyforscience.org/regeneronsts-scholars-2017.

For the latest Regeneron Science Talent Search news, visit https://student.societyforscience.org/regeneron-sts and https://medium.com/regeneron-science-talent-search. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (Society4Science).