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Two high school seniors in northern Virginia among the top 40 finalists in the nation's most prestigious science competition

The finalists were chosen based on their projects’ scientific rigor and their potential to become world-changing scientific leaders.

WASHINGTON — Two teens in northern Virginia have been named among the top finalists for the Nation's oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

On Wednesday, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Society for Science announced the Top 40 finalists in this year's Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Now in its 82nd year, officials say the competition celebrates and rewards young scientists focused on a wide range of topics. Many past winners went on to pursue innovation for the good of society and the planet, with program alumni receiving some of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 22 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, as well as becoming the founders of many important science-based companies, such as Regeneron.

Officials say the 2023 finalists' research projects showcase their scope of knowledge as well as their commitment to addressing societal issues.

Several of the students chose to explore research topics on climate change including one student who studied the environmental potential of human-made materials such as cement to help reduce emissions. Another student evaluated the correlation between air pollution and COVID-19 cases.

Some students invented health monitoring devices while others explored topics related to space. Other students dove into social and political issues for their projects.

Emily Ocasio of the New School of Northern Virginia in Fairfax, Virginia and Ethan Zhou of McLean High School in McLean, Virginia were selected as finalists and will represent the DMV area in the science competition. 

Ocasio submitted a project titled "Demographic Correlates of Humanizing Language in Media Coverage of Crime: Evidence From The Boston Globe, 1976-84," in which she uses artificial intelligence to examine hidden biases about homicide victims in media coverage.

Xhou submitted a project titled "Online Learning of Smooth Function," which examines the mathematical theory behind a type of machine learning called online learning and how it performs when predicting something very unpredictable.

Credit: Regeneron Science Talent Search

“Congratulations to an exceptional group of Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 finalists,” said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., Co-founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, and a 1976 Science Talent Search finalist and top winner. “Inspiring and equipping the brightest minds to take on the world’s most pressing issues is one of the most important ways we can ensure the scientific advancements necessary to better our society. We know the future is bright for these young scientists and are excited to see the positive impact they will make.”

Finalists were selected based on their projects' scientific rigor and their potential to become world-changing scientific leaders. They were chosen by a national jury of professional scientists from a pool of 300 scholars. Officials claim the scholars were chosen from a pool of over 1,900 highly-qualified entrants.

Credit: Regeneron Science Talent Search

“We are thrilled to welcome this inspiring and highly talented class of Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO, Society for Science and Executive Publisher, Science News. “I am certain these extraordinary students will be following in the footsteps of our many accomplished alumni who are the forefront of breakthrough discoveries. The 2023 finalists will be using their leadership, intellect, creativity and STEM skills to solve our world’s most intractable challenges.”

All the finalists are expected to participate in a week-long competition in March 2023, during which they will undergo a rigorous judging process that goes beyond their own research to encompass other scientific disciplines and compete for more than $1.8 million in awards.

Each finalist will also have an opportunity to interact with leading scientists and share their research during a virtual “Public Day” event on March 12. 

Officials say the top 10 Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 winners will be announced during an awards ceremony on March 14, streamed live in Washington, D.C.

In total, more than $3 million in awards will be distributed throughout the Regeneron Science Talent Search. 

Officials say the finalists are each awarded at least $25,000, and the top 10 awards range from $40,000 to $250,000. 

Finalists may use their award prize money solely for educational purposes and can choose for those funds to be released directly to their college or university. The top 300 scholars, each of whom receive $2,000, may use their awards as they see fit; each of their schools are also awarded $2,000 to support math and science programs, a critical investment toward their future in STEM, and our country’s future as a hub of innovation and progress.

Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 Fast Facts:

  • The Regeneron Science Talent Search 2023 finalists represent 34 schools across 14 states. They are competing for more than $1.8 million, with a top prize of $250,000.
  • Forty finalists were selected from 300 scholars and 1,949 entrants based on the originality and creativity of their scientific research, as well as their achievement and leadership both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Finalist projects cover disciplines of science including animal sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, computational biology and bioinformatics, computer science, engineering, environmental science, genomics, mathematics, medicine and health, neuroscience, physics, plant science, and space science.

For a list of this year's finalists, click here.


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