Society for Science and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Jan. 21 unveiled the 40 finalists for its annual Regeneron Science Talent Search, with at least seven Indian American kids among those recognized.

The Science Talent Search, considered the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors, chose the 40 finalists from 300 scholars who were selected earlier this month – dozens of whom were Indian American (see India-West article here: https://bit.ly/395811x).

The 2021 finalists were selected from 1,760 highly qualified entrants, all of whom completed an original research project and extensive application process. They were selected based on their projects’ scientific rigor and their potential to become world-changing scientists and leaders, according to the Society for Science and Regeneron joint news release.

Finalists’ projects span a diverse range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related topics, including diagnostic imaging to help assess the severity of COVID-19, examining the impact of e-cigarettes on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease development, and creating a new way to filter toxins more effectively from wastewater, the release said.

“This year’s finalists represent many of our nation’s most promising young scientists who, even during a global pandemic, are using their ingenuity, resourcefulness and STEM skills to work toward a better future,” Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, and among the top winners of the 1976 Science Talent Search, said in a statement. 

“I can only hope that their STS experience further inspires them to take on and help solve the biggest challenges facing mankind – from climate change to disease and future pandemics,” he said.

Among the finalists were Laalitya Acharya, Akhilesh Balasingam, Gopal Goel, Vedanth Iyer, Eshani Jha, Anushka Sanyal and Alay Shah.

Acharya, of Ohio, was named for the project, “Nereid: Using a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) Approach, an AI Technique, to Rapidly and Accurately Detect Microbial Contamination that May Cause Water-Borne Diseases.”

Balasingam, of California, was chosen for the project, “A Kinetic Monte Carlo Simulator for Multi-Terminal RRAM Devices with Applications to Brain-Inspired Computing.”

Goel, of Portland, Oregon, was selected for the project entitled, “Discrete Derivative Asymptotics of the beta-Hermite Eigenvalues.”

The project of Iyer, of Portland, Oregon, was “First-Principles Characterization of a Novel Chromium Doped Vanadyl-Oxide Based Cathode for Higher Energy and Efficiency Lithium-Ion Batteries.”

Jha, of San Jose, California, was chosen a finalist for the project, “Thiol Functionalized and Manganese Dioxide Doped Biochar for the Removal of Toxic Organic and Inorganic Contaminants from Water.”

Sanyal, of Cupertino, California, was named for “Intronic RNA Lariats Protect Against Neurodegenerative Disease Related Protein Aggregation.”

And Shah, of Plano, Texas, was selected for “Identifying Eye-Movement Patterns in Neurological Disorders to Assess Cognitive and Motor Function.”

“The finalists are the top young scientists and engineers in the United States who will someday solve some of the world’s most vexing problems,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of Society for Science, publisher of Science News and 1985 Science Talent Search alum. “They have persevered through a tumultuous year and we look forward to celebrating the students’ achievement in a special way.”

The finalists will participate in a virtual competition from March 10 to March 17, where they will undergo a rigorous virtual judging process to compete for more than $1.8 million in awards.

They will also have an opportunity to interact with leading scientists and display their projects to the public during a virtual event on March 14.

Usually held in person in Washington, D.C., the 2021 competition will take place virtually in order to keep the finalists and their families safe during the ongoing pandemic, the release notes.

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

The top 10 Regeneron Science Talent Search 2021 winners will be announced during a live-streamed virtual awards ceremony on March 17.

In total, more than $3 million in awards will be distributed throughout the Regeneron Science Talent Search, which includes awards to finalists as well as $2,000 provided to each of the top 300 scholars and their schools, the release said.

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