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Three Virginia teens place among the top 10 in the nation's most prestigious science competition

Emily Ocasio, Ethan Zhou and Max Misterka were each awarded at least $25,000.

VIRGINIA, USA — Three teenagers from Virginia were honored Tuesday after placing among the top ten in the 2023 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation's oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

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 competition namesake Regeneron. 

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

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 earlier this year. Both are from the DMV.

Ocasio was awarded 2nd place for her project titled "Demographic Correlates of Humanizing Language in Media Coverage of Crime: Evidence From The Boston Globe, 1976-84," in which she used artificial intelligence to examine hidden biases about homicide victims in media coverage. She took home a prize of $175,000. 

Xhou was awarded 7th place for his project titled  "Online Learning of Smooth Function," which examined the mathematical theory behind a type of machine learning called online learning and how it performs when predicting something very unpredictable. He received a $70,000 prize. 

Outside the DMV, another student from Harrisonburg, Virginia also placed in the top ten finalists. Max Misterka placed 5th for his project titled "A Generalization of 𝑞-Calculus Using Formal Group Laws." Misterka was awarded $100,000. 

Finalists were selected based on their projects' scientific rigor and their potential to become world-changing scientific leaders 

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 covered 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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