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17-year-old Virginian wins $25,000 in national science competition

Victoria Graf will compete as a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search where she could win $250,000.

WASHINGTON — What do a black belt in karate, a classical pianist and a high school scientist have in common?

*drum roll please*

They just so happen to be the same person. Her name is Victoria Graf. 

Graf is a 17-year-old senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. On March 5, she has a 1 in 40 shot of winning a quarter of a million dollars for her extraordinary science project.

When asked what her favorite thing to do when she's not researching. She responded with a giggle and said, "that's a tough question."

Victoria says her curiosity fuels her research and her research fuels her curiosity. 

Credit: WUSA9
Victoria Graf in front of her presentation board

That curiosity recently won Victoria $25,000 in a national STEM competition. Her project focused on combining neuroscience and music to treat disorders like depression, epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

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"At a very simplified level...I’m using music as a way to increase the complexity of response of patients with those disorders," Graf explained as she pointed to wavelengths on her presentation board. "So that brain activity will reach the level of what you see in the healthy participants."

And THAT was the simple explanation. Big picture -- Graf's project has the potential to offer low-cost treatment for disorders like depression, epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

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"I’ve actually been studying music for over ten years," Graf said. "My primary instrument is piano but I also study music theory, music history and chamber music. So I sort of chose this project to combine my interests in neuroscience, math and music."

The high school senior worked on this project for months in her free time.

"I know I worked on it for many hours over several months," Graf explained before heading back to class.

On March 5th, that hard work could result in another financial win for Graf. 

Credit: Graf Family
Victoria Graf receives certificate a science fair

Graf and 40 other finalists will be in D.C. to compete in the last leg on the competition -- a competition that could land her a $250,000 check.

"I think I’m most excited to share my work on a more national scale because it’s something that I haven’t had the chance to do before," Graf said.

Credit: Graf Family
Victoria Graf presenting her science project

If she wins that $250,000 it’ll join her previous winnings in a savings account. Because – in her words ... 

"College is getting really expensive." 

Preach sister.

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