Forty finalists took home $1.8 million in awards at the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2018, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.
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Benjamin Firester, 18 Hunter College High School: New York, New York Modeling the Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Phytopthora infestans on a Regional Scale
Benjamin Jacob Firester, 18, of New York, N.Y., developed a mathematical model which predicts how disease data and weather patterns could spread spores of the “late blight” fungus that caused the Irish Potato Famine and still causes billions of dollars in crop damages annually. Benjy’s program uses existing blight locations, date, time and detailed local weather data to model the likely routes by which late blight will spread and predict likely future infection sites. Farmers might someday use shared data to assess blight risk and reduce the preemptive use of fungicide.
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Natalia Orlovsky, 17 Garnet Valley High School: Glen Mills, Pennsylvania Electronic Cigarette Vapor and the Induction of the Xenobiotic Response in Human Lung Epithelial Cells
Natalia Dmitrievna Orlovsky, 18, of Chadds Ford, Pa., examined the response of lung epithelial cells to fluids used in vaping, a practice promoted as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. While exposure to e-cigarette vapors did not change a lung cell’s DNA, as does cigarette smoke, Natalia found that fluids of varying flavors and nicotine content did produce a potent stress response associated with decreased cell viability. Her results may demonstrate a need for greater scrutiny of the composition of vaping fluids.
Isani Singh, 18 Cherry Creek High School: Greenwood Village, Colorado Investigating the Developmental Requirements of Sex Chromosome Genes Affected in Turner Syndrome
Isani Singh, 18, of Aurora, Colo., worked towards determining that women with Turner Syndrome (TS), a genetic abnormality in which the second sex chromosome is missing, do have some cells with two X chromosomes. Knowing that most embryos lacking the second X do not survive, Isani adapted a laboratory protocol to search for and find these normal cells in TS embryos. She also identified genes that are underexpressed in TS, a finding that may help physicians and patients better prepare for the variable medical complications of TS.
Muhammad (Shahir) Rahman, 17 Westview High School: Portland, Oregon A Smart Burn/Spill Proof “SAFE” Microwave That Spares the Salad: A Novel Application of Levenberg-Marquardt Algorithms and Machine Learning for Real-time Thermodynamic Modeling
Muhammad Shahir Rahman, 17, of Portland, Ore., engineered an internet-enabled microwave oven capable of simultaneously heating different foods on the same plate to optimal temperatures without requiring user input. Shahir developed controllers and programs to detect a variety of foods, model their temperature and composition characteristics and produce targeted heating, all tested in a used microwave he retrofitted for the project. His patent-pending prototype may lead to microwave ovens that are safer and more user friendly.
David Wu, 17 Montgomery Blair High School: Silver Spring, Maryland Nonuniform Distributions of Patterns of Sequences of Primes in Prime Moduli
David Xing Wu, 17, of Potomac, Md., studied the patterns of sequential prime numbers. Irregularities in these patterns often lead to new conjectures, but collecting data on these irregularities and connecting them to existing theory can be difficult. David improved the current methods for gathering data on prime number patterns by several orders of magnitude, and began connecting conjectures in number theory to these irregularities. Understanding how sequences of prime numbers relate to one another could benefit cryptography and cybersecurity research.
Kyle Fridberg, 17 Fairview High School: Boulder, Colorado Discovery and Characterization of a Layered Fe(III)/Mn(III) Sulfate Compound: Precursor for New Lithium-ion Battery Cathodes
Kyle Oskar Fridberg, 17, of Boulder, Colo., discovered a new compound that may be useful in improving rechargeable battery technology. He produced the substance in his garage lab while working to identify the composition of a vein of black mineral he had found along the road while bicycling. Kyle developed specialized purification and crystallization procedures to isolate the compound, and he found that it could have potential for creating safer, more cost-effective cathodes for lithium-ion batteries.
Vinjai Vale, 17 Phillips Exeter Academy: Exeter, New Hampshire A New Paradigm for Computer Vision Based on Compositional Representation
Vinjai Vale, 17, of Exeter, N.H., created a system that may improve the ability of convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to understand complex scenes. Current CNN-based image analysis programs can struggle to correctly interpret objects. For example, a leopard print sofa could be interpreted s an animal based on its pattern and four legs. Vinjai developed a domain, data set and techniques that might enable modern software to better handle similar tasks, a challenge faced by, among others, designers of self-driving vehicle technology.
Skyler Jones, 17 Ossining High School: Ossining, New York Large Polaron Formation as a Charge Carrier Protection Mechanism in MAPbBr3 and CsPbBr3 Perovskite Crystals
Skyler Chloe Jones, 17, of Ossining, N.Y., studied the crystal perovskite and identified key properties of its atomic structure that make it a highly efficient semiconductor, despite its structural defects and low stability. Skyler proposes replicating these properties in a more structurally stable semiconductor crystal, making the new semiconductors less dependent on structural purity, which could lead, in turn, to development of more effective, less expensive solar cells.
Syamantak Payra, 16 Clear Brook High School: Friendswood, Texas A Smart Bionic Leg Orthosis: The Design, Development and Evaluation of an Orthotic Device for Comprehensive Restoration of Gait Characteristics Across Everyday Mobility Scenarios
Syamantak Payra, 16, of Friendswood, Texas, created a smart bionic leg brace that bends the knee automatically as the wearer walks. Syamantak’s work began after his math mentor mentioned his severe back pain caused by years of walking with a conventional locked-knee brace. After testing the new brace on his mentor, Syamantak found that it greatly improved eight gait characteristics and significantly relieved his back pain. He also wrote a smart phone/watch app allowing control of the brace using voice commands.
Raley Schweinfurth, 18 Oregon Episcopal School: Portland, Oregon Detection and Removal of Dinotefuran from the Environment: A Multi-Year HPLC-MS Analysis
Raley Schweinfurth, 18, of Portland, Ore., studied contamination levels following a 2013 incident of insecticide spraying in Oregon that killed more than 50,000 bees. Over three years, Raley used chromatography techniques to detect contamination in honey, as well as in tree and soil samples from affected sites. She found that insecticides linger in both honey and soil for years after a single spraying event, and she showed that cultivating native greenery and bacteria may help remove accumulated insecticide.