An Indian American student, Adam Ardeishar, took the top third-place prize in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search competition Mar. 12, with Eshika Saxena making it in the top 10 and placing tenth, the Society for Science and the Public and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced.

Ardeishar is a 17-year-old student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology of McLean Virginia, and was awarded a $150,000 prize for his third-place finish in the competition, which is dubbed the oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors, a joint news release said.

The Indian American, according to his bio, was named a top winner for his project combining a classic previously unsolved math problem called the “coupon collector problem” with extreme value theory.

The theory is used to determine the likelihood of a maximal event, such as a 1,000-year flood. By integrating these two concepts, he developed a way to calculate the average maximum values of distributional datasets, which could be applied to predicting the expected amount of time for a given number of different randomly-timed events to occur, the release said.

His bio additionally notes that Ardeishar found a connection between Markov chains and extreme value theory for his Regeneron Science Talent Search mathematics project.

Markov chains are used by companies such as Google to rank webpages and by hedge fund managers to track the stock market. A mathematical application of Markov chains is called the “coupon collector problem,” an example of which is estimating how many kid’s meals you must buy before you get at least one of every toy being offered, it said.

Extreme value theory is used to determine the likelihood of a maximal event. For example, structural engineers use it to calculate how likely a bridge is to collapse; meteorologists use it to assess the chance of a 1,000-year flood, the bio continued.

Ardeishar related the maximum of various data sets to a generalized coupon collector problem and then developed an algorithm to calculate the real-world values of such data.

The son of Raghu and Samim Ardeishar, the teen is most proud of being one of six students chosen to participate in the 2018 International Math Olympiad, where he earned a silver medal and helped the U.S. team win the event, his bio said.

Saxena, of Bellevue, Washington, finished 10th and received a $40,000 award for creating a 3D-printed smartphone attachment and artificial intelligence software to automatically identify blood diseases.

The 17-year-old Indian American student submitted a Regeneron Science Talent Search computer science project that aimed to create an end-to-end blood disease screening process for rapid and automated disease identification, her finalist bio said.

Building off her previous research on telemedicine and machine learning, she first designed a 3D-printed smartphone attachment that converts the phone’s camera to a microscope for

documenting microscopic blood smears, it said.

She then created a unique database with over 7,000 images of blood cells and developed machine learning models to scan the database and identify a matching disease such as sickle cell with 95 percent accuracy, according to the bio.

Committed to sharing her work, titled HemaCam, Saxena has released her code and database as open source software while also partnering with organizations in the “sickle belt” region of India for large scale field testing.

The teen founded and leads the AI and machine learning club at Interlake High School. She is the daughter of Amrita and Parichay Saxena. Saxena has achieved a black belt in both Taekwondo and Arnis, enjoys playing the piano and co-founded a community organization inspiring and mentoring kids in STEM studies, her bio noted.

Ana Humphrey of Virginia was the competition’s top winner, taking home a $250,000 prize for her mathematical model to determine the possible locations of exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — that may have been missed by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

Samuel Weissman of Pennsylvania won second place and $175,000 for his project analyzing the genetic makeup of HIV in two patients on long-term anti-retroviral therapy to understand why they continued to have “reservoirs” of treatment-resistant HIV-infected cells.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search top winners, who are already leading the way in scientific research and innovation,” Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science & the Public, publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alum, said in a statement.

Other top 10 finishers included Madeleine Yang of Michigan; Carolyn Beaumont of Virginia; Samuel Ferguson of New Jersey; Brent Perlman of New York; Rachel Seevers of Kentucky; and Vince Huang of Texas. Yang received a $100,000 prize with each subsequent winner receiving a prize $10,000 less.

The 40 finalists announced earlier were honored Mar. 12 at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search awards gala. Regeneron provided awards totaling more than $1.8 million for the finalists, who were evaluated for their research projects, as well as their exceptional scientific and mathematical knowledge, problem-solving abilities and potential as future scientific leaders, the news release said.

The remaining 30 finalists – which included more than a dozen Indian American whiz kids (see previous India-West article here: https://bit.ly/2Hztdzq) – each received $25,000. These students will join the ranks of Science Talent Search alumni who have gone on to receive more than 100 of the world's most esteemed science and math honors, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Science, to start successful biotechnology and technology companies, and to change the world through their groundbreaking inventions, the release said.

In total, Regeneron awarded $3.1 million in prizes through the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2019, including $2,000 to each of the top 300 scholars and their schools, it said.

In 2017, Regeneron became the third sponsor of the science and math competition for high school seniors, now known as the Regeneron Science Talent Search following Westinghouse from 1942-1997 and Intel from 1998-2016.

“Congratulations to this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search top winners who embody true scientific and mathematical ingenuity,” said Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, and a 1976 Science Talent Search top winner.

“We are always inspired by the work of these talented young people, and this year’s winners have impressed us with their curiosity and desire to improve the world around them. My experience as a winner in the Science Talent Search changed my life and was an important early step on my path to a life devoted to using the power of science to do good,” Yancopoulos added. “I hope it has the same impact on these young scientists, since now more than ever, we need brilliant minds like theirs to find solutions to our world’s most pressing challenges.”

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