Know Any Teenagers Tackling Global Scientific Problems? Now You Do: Introducing the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2018 Scholars

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

The Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 finalists at Capitol Hill.

It’s not unusual for proud grandparents to go to great lengths to support their grandkids, but last March, one student’s grandfather set the bar particularly high when he drove over 400 miles from Boston to Washington, D.C. — in a severe snowstorm — just to see his grandson walk across a stage and receive an award.

Why make such a trek? The student, Aaron Yeiser, was the second-place winner in the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious math and science competition for high school seniors. While the award alone is a tremendous achievement, for Aaron’s grandfather, Frank Sandy, it was even more meaningful to see his grandson follow in his footsteps: as a high school senior in 1954, Frank had been a finalist in the very same competition.

I was also on that stage when Aaron received his medal, and I’ll never forget looking into the audience and seeing his grandfather beaming with pride. It was remarkable to see how the Regeneron Science Talent Search tied a family together across generations. As a fellow Science Talent Search alum, I’ve been touched to see the countless connections our growing community of participants, alumni and supporters have made through this competition — so it is with great excitement that we welcome the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2018 scholars, the newest additions to our Science Talent Search family.

Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 second-place winner Aaron Yeiser (right) with his grandfather Frank Sandy (left), who was a finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search 1954.

The projects from this year’s scholars span a vast range of topics, from behavioral and social sciences to medicine and health to space science. Many of these students were inspired to look more closely at the world just outside their doors — studying the science behind how our cities are changing or considering new treatments for common illnesses like diabetes — while others drew ideas for their research from planets and galaxies light-years away.

All of us at Society for Science & the Public and Regeneron are thrilled to congratulate this group of amazing young people, as well as the teachers and parents who have supported them every step of the way. In addition to the distinct honor of being named a scholar, each of these students will receive $2,000, and an additional $2,000 will go to support science programs at their schools.

These generous awards are only possible with the support of Regeneron, now in the second year of its 10-year, $100 million commitment as title sponsor of the Science Talent Search. Through its contributions, Regeneron increased the award amounts for both scholars and their schools, and last year, we had the opportunity to see what a significant impact that $2,000 can make for a science program.

Hanford High School, in Richland, Washington, for example, used its award to assist low-income students with supplies and materials they need for science class. In Pittsburgh, Allderdice High School allocated a portion of its award to purchase bus passes for students in need, ensuring they could travel to and from the external labs where they conduct research.

In addition to the awards, we don’t have to look far to see how the Regeneron Science Talent Search celebrates and empowers students who are on a trajectory to change the world. The 2017 winners tackled brain injury treatment, differential equations, and more while also finding time to volunteer, play music and pursue athletics. It was a delight last year to see Regeneron President and Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos, a 1976 Science Talent Search winner, spend hours getting to know the students and learning about their projects. And it was a chance for George and Regeneron President and CEO Len Schleifer — also a Science Talent Search alum (1970) — to reflect on their own experiences with the competition and see firsthand the doors it is opening to the next generation of scientific talent.

Regeneron President and Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos takes a selfie with Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 finalists.

With each passing year, it grows only more critical for us to help open doors for this generation of future leaders. The increasingly complex global challenges facing them appear daunting to many, but these students are ready and eager to take them on with creativity, persistence and an eye on making the world a better place. This year’s scholars were selected from a pool of more than 1,800 entrants based on their exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking and promise as scientists.

While it is no easy task to narrow down this incredible group, we will announce this year’s top 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists on January 23. They will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. from March 8–14, during which they will compete for more than $1.8 million in awards provided by Regeneron, including the top award of $250,000.

And they will be in good company — in addition to interacting with leading scientists, displaying their research for the public and meeting with members of Congress while in D.C., they will become part of a 76-year legacy of distinguished Science Talent Search alumni who have gone on to win 13 Nobel Prizes, 11 National Medals of Science, two Fields Medals, 18 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships and five Breakthrough Prizes.

Kip Thorne, a Science Talent Search alumnus, speaks at the Intel Science Talent Search 2015 Awards Gala. In 2017, Thorne won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Congratulations once again to the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2018 scholars, and to all their teachers, schools and parents. We cannot wait to see what you take on next.

To see the full list of Regeneron Science Talent Search 2018 scholars, visit https://student.societyforscience.org/regeneron-sts-2018-scholars.

For the latest on Regeneron Science Talent Search news, visit https://student.societyforscience.org/regeneron-sts, and follow us on Medium, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (Society4Science).