From Brain Damage Research to Brain-Boggling Equations: Announcing the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 Top Winners

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

Third place winner Arjun Ramani (left), first place winner Indrani Das (middle) and second place winner Aaron Yeiser (right) at the Regeneron Science Talent Search Awards Gala.

Tonight, Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron are proud to announce the top winners of Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Congratulations to this year’s winners — you truly represent our best and brightest young scientific minds.

Selected from a pool of over 1,700 entrants, these 10 students have demonstrated a rare blend of extraordinary scientific potential coupled with a desire to use their skills to make a positive change to the world around them. Some were inspired by personal experiences to pursue their research, while others were driven by their boundless curiosity to search for answers to questions they had about our world, or the universe.

First place winner Indrani Das volunteering with her local ambulance service as an EMT (left) and working in the lab (right).

Indrani Das, 17, of Oradell, New Jersey, won the top award of $250,000 for her three-year study of brain injury that identified a potential major mechanism of neuron death and a possible treatment method. Indrani plays the piccolo trumpet in a four-person jazz ensemble and volunteers with her local ambulance service as a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT).

Second place winner Aaron Yeiser presenting his research at the Regeneron Science Talent Search’s public exhibition of projects (left) and skiing with his grandfather, who was a finalist in Westinghouse Science Talent Search 1954 (right).

Aaron Yeiser, 18, of Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, received second place honors and $175,000 for developing a new numerical method for solving partial differential equations on complicated geometries. Aaron is a distance runner who competes in cross country and track, and teaches sailing in Maine during the summer. His grandfather is also a former Science Talent Search finalist who competed in Westinghouse Science Talent Search 1954.

Third place winner Arjun Ramani presenting his research at the Regeneron Science Talent Search’s public exhibition of projects (left) and with high school classmates who came from Indiana to see him in Washington D.C. (right).

Arjun Ramani, 18, of West Lafayette, Indiana, received third place honors and $150,000 for developing a new mathematical method that could potentially accelerate the process of network evaluation. Arjun is an award-winning debater and accomplished tennis player and coach, and also volunteers at a local science museum.

Awards aside, all of the 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 finalists have so much to be proud of. To reach this pinnacle, collectively, they have invested hundreds of hours to identifying solutions to some of our world’s most intractable problems, from the first spark of an idea for their project, to calling countless labs until they found a mentor, to conducting months of incredibly advanced research.

When I pause to consider that many of these students are too young to vote, these achievements are all the more remarkable.

Even after the fanfare is over and the finalists head back home, we at Society for Science & the Public will continue to celebrate and support them, and to share their stories with the world.

Which raises an important question — why are these students, and their research, so important to us?

The answer is simple: because beyond their scientific brilliance, passion and endless curiosity, the Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists are part of something much bigger. Since 1942, Society for Science & the Public has been a champion for science dedicated to promoting scientific literacy, education and research. Now more than ever, we are counting on young people like these finalists to join our mission and become the next generation of innovators working to solve our greatest global challenges.

The 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 finalists at Capitol Hill.

As we face complex and unprecedented challenges — not only to our nation and world, but to the institution of science itself — it is more important than ever to support and defend science education and research. STEM is a key driver of our economic growth and global competitiveness, and is crucial to create the solutions and innovations of the future. Our ability to discover cures for serious diseases, protect our nation from cyberthreats and reverse climate change depends on investments in STEM education and resources, in order to enable young people to reach their full potential and become the scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians of the future.

Tonight, the torch is being passed to these young innovators from 75 years of Science Talent Search alums who went on to do remarkable things, whether in the scientific community or their own local communities. As they continue on their journey, we will support them every step of the way. Whether the finalists go on to make groundbreaking discoveries and win a Nobel Prize, or just as importantly, become a science teacher and inspire a new generation of young minds, it’s up to them to carry on this legacy.

Wherever their journey takes them in life, we know we can count on the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 finalists to be champions for science and inspire others through their example. Here’s to the finalists, and to another 75 years of scientific excellence.

For more information about the Regeneron Talent Search 2017 top winners, visit here.

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).